Russian, Armenian leaders to talk trade, energy, Caucasus

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

MOSCOW, October 21 (RIA Novosti) - Russian President Dmitry Medvedev will discuss trade, energy and conflict in the South Caucasus with his Armenian counterpart, Serzh Sargisyan, at talks in Armenia on October 21, a Kremlin official said.

Bilateral trade grew 13%, year-on-year, in the first eight months of 2008 to reach $536.5 million, the Kremlin said earlier. Russia is a leading trade partner of Armenia and is one of the biggest investors in the country's economy, with accrued investment from Russia topping $1.6 billion from 1991 to July 1, 2008.

The parties will also focus on joint energy projects and the industrial development of uranium deposits in Armenia, the official said earlier.

At their talks in the capital Yerevan, the presidents will also discuss the situation in the South Caucasus following Russia's brief war with Georgia, and other pressing international issues.

Russia recognized South Ossetia along with Georgia's other breakaway region Abkhazia as independent states on August 26, after it forced out Georgian troops that had tried to retake control of South Ossetia. Tensions remain high in the region, and Georgia continues to demand that Russia withdraw its troops from the two republics.

In September Armenia and other countries in the post-Soviet alliance Commonwealth of Independent States announced their support for Russia over its conflict with Georgia, but stopped short of recognizing the two provinces.

Ex-Soviet Armenia is itself locked in a bitter territorial conflict with Azerbaijan.

Armenia receives most of its gas from Russia.

The tiny Caucasus nation has high unemployment and widespread poverty. Its economic problems are aggravated by a trade embargo, imposed by neighboring Turkey and ex-Soviet Azerbaijan since the dispute over Nagorny Karabakh.

Russia has a military base in Gyumri in Armenia.

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