By Emil Danielyan
President Robert Kocharian abruptly cancelled his participation in an unofficial summit of former Soviet republics in Moscow on Friday because of what his office described as a respiratory illness.
A statement by the presidential press service said he was diagnosed with an “acute viral disease of respiratory tract” and could therefore not fly to the Russian capital. No other details were reported.
The statement was issued less than 24 hours after an official confirmation of Kocharian’s participation in a two-day meeting of the presidents of the Commonwealth of Independent States which was due to start later on Friday. He was also scheduled to hold a separate meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of the summit.
Kocharian, 51, is known as a sporty person who likes swimming, skiing and playing other sports on weekends and holidays. Incidentally, the presidential administration announced on Monday that he went on a “brief vacation” which it said will be spent in an unnamed Armenian resort. It is not clear if he caught the reported disease there.
The Armenian leader was previously reported ill in February 2002 when he underwent surgery in a Yerevan hospital after suffering from acute appendicitis.
Also canceling their participation in the CIS summit at the last minute were Presidents Mikhail Saakashvili of Georgia, Viktor Yushchenko of Ukraine and Saparmurat Niyazov of Turkmenistan. Yushchenko’s office cited a tense political situation in Ukraine, while Saakashvili said through a spokesman that he is “busy with important questions linked to his cabinet.” Observers attributed the move to renewed tensions between Georgia and Russia.