YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–Popular Moscow mayor Yuri Luzhkov and Yerevan Mayor Robert Nazarian signed on Thursday an agreement calling for closer economic–educational and cultural ties between the Russian and Armenian capitals. Luzhkov said commercial exchanges between the two cities account for a third of Russian-Armenian trade and have great potential for expansion. But he complained that bilateral ties are seriously hampered by the absence of railway communication between the two countries.
The bulk of Armenia’s external trade is carried out through the Georgian Black Sea ports of Poti and Batumi. Local and foreign businesses complain that the transit of goods through Georgia means disproportionately high transportation costs. Luzhkov said neighboring Iran with its Caspian Sea ports could serve as an alternative transit route in Russian-Armenia trade.
The Moscow mayor also visited a Russian military unit in Yerevan and a nearby Russian Orthodox church. He is due to meet with Kocharian on Friday.