China’s President Xi Jinping promised more economic and military assistance to Armenia on Wednesday during talks with his visiting Armenian counterpart President Serzh Sarkisian which the two men said will give “new impetus” to growing ties between their nations.
Sarkisian, for his part, voiced support for Beijing’s long-running efforts to regain control over Taiwan and spoke out against any foreign interference in China’s internal affairs “under the guise of human rights protection.”
In a 5-page joint declaration released after their talks in Beijing, Xi and Sarkisian noted “mutual understanding on issues relating to pivotal interests and concerns of the two countries.” They also presided over the signing by senior Chinese and Armenian government officials of a dozen intergovernmental agreements to deepen bilateral cooperation in a wide range of areas, including law-enforcement, tourism, education and energy.
One of those documents is a “framework agreement” on the disbursement of a Chinese “concessional loan” to the Armenian government. Official Armenian sources said nothing about the purpose, amount and terms of the loan. Nor did they give details of another deal whereby the state-owned Export and Import Bank of China will finance the purchase of Chinese-made equipment for the Armenian customs service with a separate low-interest credit.
The joint declaration signaled the Chinese government’s intention to continue providing annual economic aid to Yerevan, which has totaled over $40 million since 2012. It also call for joint efforts to spur bilateral trade, which surged by almost 30 percent to $590 million last year, making China Armenia’s second largest trading partner.
“The Chinese side encourages and assists its enterprises in investing in the Republic of Armenia and setting up enterprises there,” reads declaration. The Armenian government, for its part, will create “favorable conditions” for Chinese investors, it says.
Sarkisian will likely discuss the economic issues in greater detail when he meets with the Chinese premier, Li Keqiang, as part of his ongoing state visit to China.
Xi and Sarkisian also touched upon another major sphere of Chinese-Armenian ties: military cooperation. “The parties are prepared to continue their practical partnership in areas such as mutual visits by military delegations, training of military personnel, provision of military aid and so on,” they said in their joint statement.
China has trained Armenian army officers and supplied multiple-launch rocket systems to Yerevan since the late 1990s. In 2011, the Armenian military reportedly purchased sophisticated Chinese rockets with a firing range of up to 130 kilometers.
Armenia has reciprocated the Chinese support with unequivocal endorsements of Chinese sovereignty over Taiwan. The joint declaration makes clear that Yerevan will continue to oppose Taiwan’s independence, avoid any “official contact” with the island and back “all Chinese government efforts to unite the country.” “Taiwan is an integral part of the People’s Republic of China and the Taiwan issue an internal Chinese affair,” it says.
In a clear reference to Western criticisms of the Communist leadership in Beijing, the declaration also deplores “the use of double standards in human rights issues and their politicization” around the world. “The Parties are against interference in other countries’ internal affairs under the guise of human rights protection,” it says.
The Armenian and Chinese leaders further agreed that each side would outlaw on its territory organizations that could pose a threat to the other’s “sovereignty, security and territorial integrity.” They concluded that the agreements reached during Sarkisian’s trip “will give new impetus to the further development and deepening of Chinese-Armenian friendly cooperation.”