By Emil Danielyan and Hrach Melkumian
The presidents of Russia and Armenia discussed on Sunday the vital supplies of Russian fuel to the debt-ridden nuclear power station at Metsamor which the Armenian government hopes will resume power generation this summer.
The Russian Itar-Tass news agency said Russian-Armenian “interaction in atomic energy” was the main focus of a meeting between Presidents Vladimir Putin and Robert Kocharian held on the sidelines of a summit of six former states in Tajikistan. No details were reported.
Metsamor’s only functioning reactor, which provides about 40 percent of Armenia’s electricity, was halted on April 4 and can not be reactivated without full refueling. The two governments have been negotiating on an agreement that would allow the plant to secure fresh nuclear fuel and repay its $32 million debt to the Russians.
Under a tentative deal agreed by them last month, Russia’s RAO Unified Energy Systems (UES) utility will raise the required $40 million sum in exchange for taking over Metsamor’s financial management and gaining the ownership of six Armenian hydro-electric stations. But the talks seem to be dragging on with no date yet set for the signing of the agreement.
Prime Minister Andranik Markarian said a group of Russian government and nuclear energy officials will arrive in Yerevan on Tuesday to “continue the process.” “We are currently sticking to our timetable [for Metsamor’s reactivation] as evidenced by the ongoing maintenance work at the nuclear plant,” Markarian told reporters. He would not be drawn on when Russian fuel could reach Armenia though.
Markarian also announced that the controversial “equities-for-debt” agreement settling the Armenian government’s separate $100 million debt to Moscow will be ratified by the Russian parliament and come into effect “by the middle of May.” The Russian State Duma was due to vote on the agreement this month. Markarian blamed the delay on “technical reasons,” denying press reports that the Russians have postponed its ratification until after the Armenian parliamentary elections.
In the Tajik capital Dushanbe, meanwhile, Armenia was granted observer status in the Eurasian Economic Community, a Russia-dominated and largely ineffectual grouping set up in 2000 to restore lost trade ties after the Soviet collapse. Last year observer status was given to two other former Soviet republics, Ukraine and Moldova.
Apart from Russia, the grouping includes Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. The five nations as well as Armenia also make up make up the Collective Security Treaty Organization (DKB), which announced on Monday the creation of a joint military command to oversee a rapid reaction force. Their presidents also signed other documents aimed at turning the alliance into a fully-fledged international organization with mechanisms of military response to security threats, reports from Dushanbe said.
Putin, in particular, was quoted as promising greater military assistance to Armenia and the other DKB members. He said they will be able to buy Russian arms and military equipment at the same prices they are sold to the Russian military.