Armenia firmly supports the position of Russia on the Syrian issue, the country’s President Serzh Sarkisian stated at talks with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in Moscow on Thursday.
During their meeting the two leaders reportedly discussed “key issues of Russian-Armenian cooperation, prospects of integration processes in the Eurasian space and the Nagorno-Karabakh settlement.”
Both expressed satisfaction with the “successful development” of Armenian-Russian relations, with Putin defining them as “strategic partnership”.
Armenia is a key military and political ally of Russia in the South Caucasus. It hosts a Russian military base and is a member of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), a Moscow-led defense pact of six post-Soviet nations.
In early 2015 Armenia also joined the Eurasian Economic Union, which besides Russia also includes Belarus, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan.
Putin and Sarkisian dwelled on the fact that Armenia currently holds the rotating presidency in the CSTO. “It is this organization that is responsible for security issues, for fighting terrorism and organized crime and for calm on our borders,” Putin emphasized in remarks reported by the Kremlin press service as well as Sarkisian’s official website.
Sarkisian, for his part, said that Armenia, as the currently presiding country, “pays great attention to the implementation of the decisions made at the September and December summits of the CSTO.”
“We are, of course, concerned over the situation in the regions adjacent to the zone of CSTO responsibility. Like I said during the December session [of the CSTO] and in my other speeches, I once again openly declare that we firmly support Russia in the Syrian issue. And, of course, we welcome the agreement that you have reached with the United States on the cessation of hostilities [in Syria], which may become a key to the political solution to the problem,” the Armenian president stated.
Sarkisian also thanked Putin for Russian efforts on finding a solution to the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh. “We remain committed to a peaceful resolution of this conflict,” he emphasized.
Along with the United States and France, Russia is a key international peace broker in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict in which the settlement process has stalled recently, with both sides accusing each other of hampering progress.
Despite its mediatory role, Russia has supplied both Armenia and Azerbaijan with weapons. In late February, a Russian Foreign Ministry representative said that in doing so Russia, however, was careful to maintain a “balance of forces” in the region.
During today’s meeting with Putin, Sarkisian spoke about “full mutual understanding in the political, economic, military-technical and humanitarian spheres.” “These relations are developing very well,” he said.
Putin, on his part, said: “Of course, there are also problems of objective nature, I mean first of all our economic cooperation, even though here we understand that on the whole we can be satisfied with how we have built the basis of our relations. I have no doubts that basing on our joint decisions of previous years we will be developing [our relations] also in this direction.”
The price of natural gas that Armenia receives from Russia is one of the issues on the economic agenda of the two countries. In January, Armenian Prime Minister Hovik Abrahamian said Armenia had asked Russia to cut the price of natural gas delivered to the country and hoped for a positive response.
Gazprom, which supplies at least 80 percent of Armenia’s gas, already lowered the price from $190 to $165 per thousand cubic meters for Yerevan in 2015.
In February, Abrahamian publicly pressed Armenia’s Russian-owned gas distribution network to help his government convince Russia to further cut the gas price, but Armenian officials did not report any progress on the matter since.
At today’s session the Armenian government, however, gave its consent to the price of gas at $165 for the first quarter of 2016. The short-term agreement on this account was also expected to be approved by Putin and Sarkisian during their meeting in Moscow. But neither the press office of the Armenian president or the press office of the Russian head of state specifically reported on discussions regarding the gas price issue.
Earlier on Thursday, Armenian Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian, who was on the delegation headed by President Sarkisian, held a meeting with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov to discuss cooperation between the two countries’ foreign policy departments.
According to the Armenian Foreign Ministry’s press service, the two diplomats exchanged views on current international and regional issues.
At the end of the meeting, Nalbandian and Lavrov signed a plan of consultations between their ministries for 2016-2017. The plan envisages about three dozen consultations in the next couple of years on international and regional issues, issues of information provision, consular and other matters.