A senior Armenian official denied on Thursday any political motives behind President Serzh Sarkisian’s absence from this week’s summit of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), saying that Armenia’s relations with Russia remain “excellent.”
Artur Baghdasarian, the secretary of the presidential National Security Council, reiterated the official explanation that Sarkisian could not attend the informal summit held in Kyrgyzstan’s capital Bishkek on Tuesday because it coincided with an Armenian independence holiday.
“Everyone knew that May 28 is a state holiday in Armenia and the president of our country will participate in the celebrations of that state holiday,” Baghdasarian told a news conference. “It would have been strange if Mr. Sarkisian had not participated in that holiday.”
“It was an informal meeting, rather than an official summit,” said Baghdasarian, who represented Armenia at Bishkek together with Defense Minister Seyran Ohanian and Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian. He added that Sarkisian will definitely take part in the next official CSTO summit slated for the end of this year.
Some observers in Yerevan have speculated that Sarkisian shunned the Bishkek meeting as well as a separate summit of the Russian-led Eurasian Economic Community held in Kazakhstan on Wednesday to indicate his discontent with a 50 percent increase in the price of Russian natural gas delivered to Armenia.
Baghdasarian dismissed such claims, saying that Russia’s Gazprom giant will charge Armenia less than other countries even after the price rise. “It’s market-based economics,” he said. “In terms of the existing gas tariffs, Armenia is in a much better situation than many other countries.”
The official, whose Orinats Yerkir party is represented in the Armenian government by three ministers, went on to announce that two high-ranking Russian officials will visit Armenia soon. He refused to name them, though.
Sarkisian and Russia’s President Vladimir Putin praised relations between their countries when they last met near Moscow in March. Putin described bilateral ties as “special.”