Statement to the Press and Answers to Questions at a Joint News Conference with Armenian President Robert Kocharian 2003-01-17 00:00:59 The Kremlin, Moscow Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon. Allow me to cordially welcome our Armenian friends to Moscow. I am glad to have another meeting with the President of Armenia, Robert Kocharian. I am sure that the visit will further promote the traditional friendly ties between our two states. The results of the talks and the documents signed today have given fresh proof that Russian-Armenian relations have the character of a strategic partnership and are developing rapidly in all areas that are important for us. They rest on the solid foundation of the Treaty on Friendship, Cooperation and Mutual Assistance, whose provisions we constantly seek to invest with concrete deeds. It is important that our countries are engaged in an active political dialogue. Trade and economic cooperation is becoming ever more effective. This owes much to last year’s decisions, especially on the problem of debts which we have closed. And, in my opinion, we have resolved it at the suggestion of the Armenian President in such a way as to strengthen our cooperation, create a good and solid basis for our mutual interest in each other, a basis that will enable businessmen of both countries to be active in the economic territory of both sides and to cooperate vigorously. We attach great significance to the interaction between Russia and Armenia within the CIS, the Collective Security Treaty Organisation and the CIS Anti-Terrorist Centre. It is in our common interests to make good use of the potential of these structures and to develop new forms of cooperation. We welcome Armenia’s decision to join the Eurasian Economic Community as an observer, something we discussed with the Armenian President today. I am sure it will help to upgrade economic cooperation between our countries and among other CIS countries whose economies are closely interconnected and in many ways mutually complementary. We intend to continue joint work to strengthen security in the South Caucasus. We welcome the development of the direct top-level dialogue between Armenia and Azerbaijan on the Karabakh problem. As for Russia’s position, as you know, I have said it publicly more than once that as before we are ready to contribute to the settlement of the Nagorny Karabakh conflict on a just basis acceptable to all the parties concerned. The meeting paid considerable attention to humanitarian cooperation and contacts in the field of science, culture and education. Interaction in this field that reflects the closeness of the spiritual traditions of our peoples is, in our view, a priority, and we intend to develop it actively. The Union of Armenians in Russia is making a constructive contribution to addressing that task. I think it is very important that there is a growing interest in the Russian language in Armenia as a language of communication between peoples. For the people of Armenia, especially for young people, it opens up new opportunities for acquiring an education, deepening business, scientific and cultural ties not only with Russia, but with many other CIS countries. During our meeting, we have also discussed key international issues. They included global and regional stability, and the prospects of jointly tackling new threats, above all terrorism. And I would like to note that our positions on all the issues discussed are practically identical. This Russian-Armenian summit is taking place on the eve of a very important political event in the life of Armenia, on the eve of the presidential election. We are grateful to Robert Kocharian for the attention he has given all these years to the development of Russian-Armenian relations. I must stress that it was under his leadership that we managed to attain a new level of interaction between the two countries. I express hope that whatever the outcome of the elections, that element of Armenia’s foreign policy will remain in place. For my part I would like to assure you that Russia will adhere to the principles we have worked out together with the Armenian President over these past years. Thank you. * * * Question: How does Russia see the future of Armenian-Russian relations? Thank you. Vladimir Putin: Russian-Armenian relations have roots that go deep into the centuries. For both Armenia and Russia it is a special relationship of enduring significance. I don’t think I need go into history, you all know it well. And I have spoken a few minutes ago about what has been taking place in recent years. We are very pleased with the way the relations between the two countries have developed during the presidency of Robert Kocharian. We would like to see the commitment to the development of bilateral ties preserved in the future. For our part, we are committed to such work. What hinders us? We are hindered by unsettled relationships among the countries in the region. We would like to be able to develop our relations in the full format both with Armenia and with Azerbaijan. That is why we will do all we can to bring about a just settlement that would suit both sides. I think a solution can only be achieved on the basis of some kind of a compromise. We hope that it will eventually be found without outside pressure. With outside support but without outside pressure. Secondly, in any case we will develop the relations between Russia and Armenia, because Russia has a vital interest in developing its relations with the countries in the region. We are very interested in economic cooperation considering the powerful scientific-technical and human potential of Armenia. I think Armenia is equally interested in promoting relations with Russia in all these areas. We have long-standing cooperation; and the success of Armenia and to a certain extent of Russia in achieving the goals our Governments set for themselves in terms of economic development will greatly depend on how we take advantage of these ties. We attach no less importance to interaction in the world. I must say that during the talks between delegations today, oddly enough, the President and I talked more with each other than some Russian and Armenian colleagues. It may seem odd, but they have nothing to discuss because they meet regularly, are attentive to each other’s interests and constantly coordinate their work. We would like such interaction at the practical level to continue in the future. I do not rule out that some day we may be able to improve the Treaty on Friendship and Cooperation, which is a fundamental treaty. For the time being it is the best we have, and it provides a good basis for the development of our bilateral ties. Question: A question for Robert Kocharian. What do you think about EurAsEC and is Armenia going to join it? Robert Kocharian: We intend to become observers in that organisation. Armenia has always favoured integration processes within the CIS. A couple of years ago when the idea of different levels of integration was launched we were at the highest level. After acquiring that status we will have to study the situation in more detail and see how we can combine our membership in the WTO and the requirements for members of EurAsEC. I think such a combination is possible. There are many instances of WTO member countries forming narrower groups. Time is needed to study the situation. Vladimir Putin: For our part we welcome the decision of our Armenian colleagues to start work within EurAsEC as observers. It is true that many WTO members are also members of regional economic structures. WTO membership does not impede such work. Of course we should determine the principles of our interaction at the expert level with due account of Armenia’s membership in the WTO. By the way, when I said that Russia, like Armenia, is interested in developing economic ties it was not just rhetoric. The difference of our economic potentials might suggest that it is not very important for Russia. That is not so. Interaction with such a country as Armenia may benefit Russia in light of the structural changes taking place in the Armenian economy. As far as I know Armenia’s economy grew by 12%, while annual inflation is 3%.