by Marianna Mkrtchyan
As usual, the negotiations with Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan proceeded in a business and constructive atmosphere, Russian President Vladimir Putin said following the Russian-Armenian talks.
"During a separate meeting and then at an enlarged meeting with official delegations we thoroughly discussed the dimensions of further Russian-Armenian cooperation. We outlined specific plans on expansion of the trade, economic and humanitarian ties. Special attention was paid to Armenia's participation in Eurasian integration processes. As you know, during the October session of the Supreme Eurasian Economic Council in Minsk, the Customs Union countries supported Armenia's intention to join the Customs Union and the Common Economic Space. At the moment a roadmap is being prepared to bring the national legislation of Armenia in compliance with the legal base of the Customs Union and the Common Economic Space. We will further contribute to implementation of all the required procedures for Armenia's accession to the Customs Union.
The rising complementarity of our economies demonstrates the prospects of the integration cooperation. Russia is the key foreign trade partner of Armenia - 23.5% in Armenia's foreign trade turnover. In 2012 the commodity turnover increased by over 20% to 1,2 bln USD. Further growth was outlined in Jan-Sept 2013. The total volume of Russian investments in Armenia has exceeded 3 billion USD - over 40% of foreign investments in Armenian economy. Direct investments constitute the major part of them.
There are around 1,300 Russian companies in Armenia - over 25% of all joint ventures with foreign capital. They operate in the key sectors of Armenian economy: gas supply, transport services, telecommunications, and financial sector. The arrangements on price formation and amount of Russian natural gas supply to Armenia will contribute to further development of the mutually beneficial partnership. The interaction in the nuclear energy field is also being promoted. Our plans include prolongation of the lifespan of the Armenian Nuclear Power Plant.
Today the Armenian President and I attended the launch of the 5th unit of the Hrazdan Thermal Power Plant. Gazprom has invested over $300mln in this project. I have asked a Gazprom representative. He told me that 300mln, but I am sure that in fact they invested more than 400mln. I am convinced that this plant will enhance Armenia's energy security.
We have agreed to provide support to joint initiatives in high- tech sectors. Particularly, we are planning to create an Armenian communication and television satellite and to organize space research at the Byurakan Observatory. We are actively developing our cooperation in the field of education, particularly, we provide active support to Armenian schools teaching in Russian. We have a quite effective Russian- Armenian University in Yerevan and are planning to open a Russian high school and a branch of Moscow State University.
We are going to further enlarge our cooperation in the field of tourism. Over 40,000 Russians visited Armenia last year, which is 17% more than a year before.
We also have a big potential for developing cooperation between our regions.
In Gyumri we held a meeting with the personnel of the 102nd Russian military base. We believe that the presence of Russian soldiers in the Armenian land contributes to stability and security in the South Caucasus and is a stimulus for our practical military and military-technical cooperation in the framework of the Collective Security Treaty Organization.
In the context of regional and international problems we discussed the situation over the Nagorno-Karabakh peace process. Russia welcomes the resumption of direct contacts between the Armenian and Azerbaijani presidents. I recently visited Baku and thoroughly discussed this issue with the Azerbaijani President. I am glad to note that the meeting that took place in Vienna on Nov 19 was positive. We hope that the parties will show good sense and willingness to settle their conflict and we are ready to actively support their efforts in the framework of the OSCE Minsk Group.
I am convinced that the agreements we have reached today will help us to develop the whole complex of our relations," Putin said.