YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–President Serzh Sarkisian heaped praise on Germany and called for the expansion of its relations with Armenia after meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on an official visit to Berlin on Tuesday.
The two leaders said their talks touched upon a broad range of issues, including bilateral relations, the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and Armenia’s stalled rapprochement with Turkey. Merkel said they also discussed issues related to Armenia’s “democratization.”
“Armenia’s desire to expand relations with Germany in both bilateral and multilateral formats stems from Germany’s balanced policy towards our region and its growing interest in our region,” Sarkisian told a joint news conference.
Sarkisian said closer ties with Germany are also “an important component” of his administration’s efforts to deepen Armenia’s integration into the European Union. “We agreed that the EU’s Eastern Partnership program opens broad opportunities in this area,” he said.
The two leaders also discussed ways of boosting commercial ties between their countries, with Merkel proposing a dual taxation agreement between Armenia and Germany. Sarkisian likewise stressed the need for “complementing” the legislative framework regulating those ties.
Germany is already one of Armenia’s leading trading partners and its number one export market in the EU. According to Armenian government data, the total volume of German-Armenian trade stood at $292 million in 2009, accounting for 7.3 percent of the South Caucasus state’s overall external commerce.
Germany has also been Armenia’s second-largest foreign donor after the United States, having allocated 220 million euros ($275 million) in loans and grants between 1995 and 2009. It has also been the single largest contributor to the EU’s separate multimillion-dollar assistance to Yerevan.
The German government announced last March plans provide up to 100 million euros in fresh loans to Armenia in the next few years. The promised funding is to be channeled into rural infrastructure projects, the reconstruction of the country’s largest hydro-electric station and the development of the local mortgage market.
Sarkisian thanked Berlin for the aid, saying that it has been “essential” for the success of economic reforms carried out by successive Armenian governments.
The unresolved Karabakh conflict was also on the agenda, with Merkel reaffirming her government’s support for the Armenian-Azerbaijani negotiating process mediated by the U.S., Russia and France. She offered Germany’s assistance to the peace efforts.
“In those areas where we can be helpful, we want to be helpful,” Merkel told journalists, adding her hope that resolving the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict would also help ease Armenia’s tensions with Turkey.
“We greatly welcomed the fact that there was some movement in relations between Armenia and Turkey some time ago,” the chancellor said, according to the DPA news agency. “Unfortunately the whole thing has lost its momentum.”
Sarkisian sounded pessimistic about prospects for the normalization of Turkish-Armenian relations, saying that Ankara lacks the “will” to honor the Western-backed agreements with Yerevan signed last October. “Turkey’s current policies are not conducive towards engaging in relations,” he said.