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President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev: Ladies and gentlemen,
It is a pleasure to welcome to Moscow Mr Sargsyan and this big Armenian delegation for the first state visit by the President of Armenia to Russia. I am sure that this visit, which, like any state visit, has a symbolic dimension, will become a big milestone in developing the cooperation between our countries and building up our broad-ranging alliance and the friendly relations that have always bound our peoples.
We examined a range of issues at the talks just now, with priority going to bilateral cooperation of course. I have regular contact and meet often with Mr Sargsyan. I think that our political dialogue is essential for maintaining balanced and substantial relations between our countries.
Our trade and economic ties are developing well. We have clearly recovered from the economic difficulties the crisis brought, and we expect to see our bilateral trade turnover for 2011 overall exceed the pre-crisis level and come to a total of more than $1 billion.
Big Russian companies continue developing their business in Armenia. Our accumulated investment has now reached the impressive figure of more than $2.8 billion and is thus coming close to the $3 billion mark. Investment cooperation is one of the sectors that will get priority attention.
”I am sure that this visit will become a big milestone in developing the cooperation between our countries and building up our broad-ranging alliance and the friendly relations that have always bound our peoples.“
We are developing cooperation in a broad range of areas. We have a high level of energy sector cooperation, and are getting positive signals from cooperation in the high-technology sector. We heard from the ministers just now about how our investment cooperation on a range of projects is progressing. We think that transport, communications, and information technology are all very important sectors for our work together, and the amendment signed just before in the agreement on avoiding double taxation of income and assets aims precisely to facilitate development of our trade, economic and investment cooperation.
Our interregional cooperation is showing positive development. The first Russian-Armenian interregional cooperation forum took place in Yerevan in April. This was a much-needed initiative and I hope it will continue, all the more so as around 70 Russian regions now have active cooperation ties with Armenia’s regions and Armenia in general. Our countries’ capital cities are also actively developing their ties and this is a good sign.
We discussed our humanitarian ties today. They have their roots in history, and I am sure that they will continue to develop well in the future, all the more so as the large Armenian diaspora is so active in this work.
The Russian Science and Culture Centre in Yerevan is open and working. It is also home to a teaching and methodology centre for Russian language study, which was something we discussed just now, and also to the Russian-Armenian Innovation Cooperation Centre. We place great importance in general on all cultural issues and projects to support our national languages. The Russian language remains an important tool for communication between peoples, and there can be no underestimating the importance of this role. We discussed new projects in this area at our talks just before. As far as language support goes, Russia will also help to promote and support the use of the Armenian language of course, especially in areas that are home to large Armenian communities.
Naturally, we also discussed foreign policy matters, and our foreign ministers just signed a large number of documents. Of course we want to continue developing our relations within the CSTO. We share very similar positions on the main issues on the international agenda, and this helps us to work together fruitfully in the United Nations, the OSCE, the Black Sea Economic Cooperation Organisation, and in other areas too.
Strengthening stability in the Trans-Caucasus is another big issue. We exchanged views on the current situation in Nagorno Karabakh. My personal view is that this conflict can be resolved only through political means. Considerable efforts have been made in this direction over recent years, including with Russia’s participation. I think that we must continue to encourage and support the negotiating process as a co-chair of the Minsk Group, and organise direct contacts with the Armenian and Azerbaijani leaderships.
I want to thank Mr Sargsyan for today’s talks, which were constructive and friendly as always. Indeed, we never have any problems, for we meet and talk as two friends, two leaders of neighbouring countries that are friends and allies.
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Question: Mr Medvedev, you said that the ministers reported on the bilateral investment projects. What are the prospects for developing Russian investment in Armenia? Are there any big new projects in mind? In particular, what are the cooperation prospects in the nuclear energy sector?
Dmitry Medvedev: Yes, we heard from the ministers, but to be honest, Mr Sargsyan and I, even in our one-on-one meetings, cover all of these different subjects with ease because we are familiar with the projects and have been discussing them for a long time now.
Of course a lot depends on investment cooperation. I said just now that Russia’s cumulative investment in Armenia is approaching $3 billion, and this is by no means the limit. We are absolutely certain that we can develop our investment further. Russian companies have become stable suppliers of natural gas to Armenia and are working actively in the electricity sector too. Incidentally, the fifth generating unit at the Razdan Thermal Power Plant is due to come on line soon. This will be, I think, just the latest big event in our investment cooperation. I think that our natural gas projects will also take our cooperation in the energy sector to a higher level.
”Our trade and economic ties are developing well. We have clearly recovered from the economic difficulties the crisis brought, and we expect to see our bilateral trade turnover for 2011 overall exceed the pre-crisis level.“
Energy is very important of course, but we cannot limit our cooperation to this one sector alone. We realise how important infrastructure projects are for our Armenian friends – both real and virtual infrastructure. By real infrastructure I mean railways, and there are a number of projects currently underway. We discussed them at today’s talks, including possible new ideas for finding a way out of the complicated situation that Armenia is in at the moment. We hope that through our joint efforts and with the help of other countries too, we will be able to help Armenia build a more modern and perhaps even completely new communications system.
As for virtual investment projects (so called not because they are just virtual, but because they are about information technology cooperation), this is an area that is developing well. I remember how Mr Sargsyan and I inaugurated one interesting project in the area of broadband mobile internet at a time when all of this was developing a lot slower in Russia. But this is a very good thing. Our Armenian friends are establishing a pilot platform, one could say, for trying out Russian and jointly-produced information technology. We think this is very useful. Even the double taxation avoidance agreement that we signed just before will encourage development of investment projects.
Let me say just a couple of words about the nuclear energy sector. This is also an important cooperation sector. These are not cheap projects, frankly, and they will require big investment, all the more so given the particularly stringent standards applied to nuclear energy today. But discussion of this project continues and we hope to agree on an optimum scheme for developing our cooperation in this sector.
”We want to continue developing our relations within the CSTO. We share very similar positions on the main issues on the international agenda, and this helps us to work together fruitfully in the United Nations, the OSCE, the Black Sea Economic Cooperation Organisation, and in other areas too.“
Question: Mr Medvedev, regarding the energy projects the European Union has initiated in the Trans-Caucasus region, and also the South Stream project, President of Armenia Serzh Sargsyan said that these projects should not in any way contribute to increasing tension in the region and must not create dividing lines. I would like to hear your view on this issue.
Dmitry Medvedev: I agree completely with Mr Sargsyan. Economic projects should not create dividing lines, but should strengthen cooperation in the region. This is their goal, the goal of South Stream and the many other projects that can be carried out in the region.
All of the Russian Federation’s undertakings aim to foster this common spirit of cooperation, ease any concerns that perhaps exist, and make Russia and the other countries taking part in these projects more competitive. Mr Sargsyan was therefore right in his comments, and we should encourage all sorts of different projects between Russia and Armenia, especially those in which successful members of the Armenian community here are taking part.