WASHINGTON (RFE/RL)—Washington and Yerevan have welcomed what has been announced as the largest investment yet by a private U.S. company in Armenia and the first in the South Caucasus nation’s energy sector.
According to the media note released by the U.S. Department of State after the 22nd United States-Armenia Joint Economic Task Force meeting in Washington, on Friday, the investment by the American company, Contour Global, in Armenia’s hydropower sector amounts to $180 million.
“This investment, which is expected to be partially financed by the U.S. Overseas Private Investment Corporation, represents the largest U.S. private investment in Armenia’s history and the first U.S. investment in Armenia’s critical energy sector,” the statement added.
The two sides apparently referred to the three big hydropower stations built along the fast-flowing Vorotan river in Armenia’s southeastern Syunik province that generate a considerable part of the country’s electricity. Still in June Contour Global announced that it was close to buying the plants and the Armenian government then confirmed that it was in negotiations with a U.S. energy company on the possible sale of the facilities. The Armenian side did not release any further details on the course of the negotiations afterwards.
The latest USATF annual bilateral meeting aimed at promoting trade and investment between the United States and Armenia was hosted by the U.S. Department of State on November 22. It was attended by a delegation of Armenia led by Minister of Finance Davit Sarkisian and including Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Ashot Hovakimian and Armenian Ambassador to the United States Tatoul Markarian. The U.S. Government was represented by Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Eric Rubin, USAID Assistant Administrator Paige Alexander, and Coordinator of Assistance for Europe Daniel Rosenblum. U.S. Ambassador to Armenia John Heffern and USAID Armenia Mission Director Karen Hilliard also attended.
“Both sides held discussions on mechanisms to deepen economic ties, increase trade and investment, and advance market reforms,” the U.S. Department of State said. “Participants discussed the bilateral launch of a visa liberalization process with the goal of achieving a visa-free regime for American travelers and ten-year multiple entry visas for Armenians, leading to increased bilateral trade and investment. The United States also encouraged implementation of Armenia’s civil aviation liberalization reforms.”
The press release further stated that the United States highlighted Armenia’s selection as one of 20 focus countries for the U.S. Agency for International Development’s (USAID) Science, Technology, Innovation, and Partnerships. “Through this initiative, both countries have agreed to undertake a signature effort in the areas of clean energy and water,” it said.