By Emil Danielyan
A long awaited agreement settling Armenia's $97 million debt to Russia will be signed before the end of June, the Armenian government announced on Friday. But it implied that the Russians will not write off the entire sum in return for securing control of state-run Armenian enterprises as was earlier claimed by Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian.
Ilya Klebanov, the Russian government minister dealing with the matter, was quoted by the government's press service as telling Prime Minister Andranik Markarian in Moscow that he will arrive in Yerevan before June 20 to "complete the negotiating process and sign the final documents." According to Markarian's press office, Klebanov said the two sides have to settle only "procedural issues" before signing the debt agreement.
The two men met in the Russian capital on the sidelines of a meeting of the prime ministers of 12 former Soviet states making up the Commonwealth of Independent States.
The so-called equities-for-debt agreement was originally due to be sealed during Russian President Vladimir Putin's official visit to Armenia last September. But its signing has been repeatedly delayed, apparently due to disagreements over the list of the Armenian industries and their market value.
Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian, who has represented the Armenian side in the debt talks, said earlier this week that the two governments have yet to agree on the transfer price of the Hrazdan thermal power plant, the largest in Armenia. He had declared previously that that Armenia will see its entire debt to Russia written off as a result of the arrangement.
But speaking to reporters accompanying him on the Moscow trip, Markarian indicated that the debt will be cleared only “to a certain extent.” He also spoke, vaguely, of the impending restructuring of other debts that “had existed in the past.”
Also, Markarian mentioned only the Hrazdan plant in the context of the debt discussions. He made no reference to the four other enterprises, which under a tentative agreement reached by Klebanov and Sarkisian in Yerevan last December were to be placed under Russian control. Those are the Mars electronics factory in Yerevan and three research institutes that used to work for the Soviet defense industry. It is thus not clear whether they will be covered by the final Russian-Armenian deal.
Klebanov and Sarkisian are the co-chairs of the Russian-Armenian intergovernmental Commission on Economic Cooperation.