By Aza Babayan in Moscow
President Robert Kocharian met his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in Moscow Wednesday ahead of a summit of several former Soviet republics that will focus on common defense and economic cooperation.
The two leaders smiled and exchanged courtesies as they began the meeting, officially confirmed at a short notice, in the presence of reporters. They both expressed satisfaction at the current state of Russian-Armenian ties, with Putin saying that they have become “more active” of late.
Kocharian agreed but noted that there are issues that still “need to be clarified” by the two governments. “I would like to single out issues related to the energy sector and investments,” he said, hinting at Armenia’s concerns about the slow implementation of a bilateral agreement that cleared Yerevan’s $100 million debt to Moscow.
The Armenian government is frustrated with the Russians’ failure so far to make breathe a new life into five Armenian enterprises that were handed over to them as part of the swap agreement.
Putin, for his part, praised Kocharian for taking part in the Moscow summit of the Eurasian Economic Community (EurAsEC), a Russian-led grouping of five ex-Soviet states. Armenia has so far declined to join the EurAsEC, opting instead for an observer status.
"The fact that you as a head of state take part in the EurAsEC's activities on the permanent basis is a positive signal," Putin told the Armenian leader. "Although Armenia has an observer status in the organization, I am confident that it will help develop interaction between all our countries."
The EurAsEC countries and Armenia are also signatories to the Collective Security Treaty (CST), a Russian-led military pact. A separate CST summit will also take place in Moscow.
Preparations for it were discussed on Wednesday by the defense ministers and top diplomats from the member states. The Armenian delegation at the meeting was led by Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian.
“I continue to believe that membership in the Collective Security Treaty Organization is one of the integral parts of Armenia’s national security,” he told RFE/RL. “We have deepened our relations with NATO and the United States in recent years. And I am convinced that our relations with the CST organization in no way impede our cooperation with NATO and vice versa.”
Sarkisian added that Yerevan will stick to this complementary approach “until cooperation with one organization is in conflict with cooperation with the other.” “Today it is possible to cooperate with both organizations,” he said. “But it is difficult to say for how long it will be possible.”