YEREVAN (RFE/RL)—Russian President Vladimir Putin praised Russia’s “special” relationship with Armenia and hailed his Armenian counterpart Serzh Sarkisian’s “convincing” victory in last month’s presidential election during their fresh meeting held near Moscow on Tuesday.
The two men met in Putin’s Novo-Ogaryovo residence for talks that were expected to clarify the future of Russian-Armenian relations. They made no public statements or sign any documents after the talks.
Their press offices said last week that they will discuss “development of integration” processes in the former Soviet Union, an apparent reference to Armenia’s possible membership in the Customs Union of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan.
They did not mention this issue in statements issued after the talks. The Kremlin said only that Putin and Sarkisian discussed “pressing issues of bilateral interaction.” A separate statement by the Armenian presidential press service said the two leaders talked about ways of stepping up Russian-Armenian cooperation “in the political, economic and humanitarian fields.”
The two official sources also publicized Putin’s and Sarkisian’s opening remarks at the meeting. “I want to again congratulate you on the convincing [election] victory: more than 60 percent of the vote is a very good result that testifies to popular trust and enables you to implement all plans which you made when starting the election campaign,” Putin told the Armenian leader.
“We have special relations with Armenia,” Putin said. “They know this well in both Armenia and Russia. It must be said that on the whole they are developing successfully despite certain difficulties in the world economy.”
Putin went on to praise a 20 percent rise in Russian-Armenian trade last year and again emphasized the fact that his country has been Armenia’s leading foreign investor since the Soviet break-up. “We have big, promising, good joint investment plans,” he added.
Sarkisian, for his part, said it is only “natural” that he chose Russia for his first trip abroad after reelection. “Russia is our strategic partner and ally, and this pretty much says it all,” he said.
Sarkisian thanked Putin for “good progress” in the close Russian-Armenian military ties which he said has been made since their last meeting in December. He pointed to recent visits to Armenia by Russia’s Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu and top military commander, General Valery Gerasimov.
“I agree with you in that there is also progress in the economy. Of course there are issues here but we hope for Russia’s support and assistance,” Sarkisian added without elaborating.
The meeting continued behind the closed doors.