SOCHI (RFE/RL) — President Vladimir Putin praised Russia’s close political, military and economic ties with Armenia as he met with his Armenian counterpart Serzh Sarkisian in the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi on Wednesday.
Putin started the talks by noting the upcoming 20th anniversary of the signing of a comprehensive Russian-Armenian treaty.
“Since then relations between Armenia and Russia as sovereign states have strengthened in the most serious manner,” he said. “We maintain an intensive political dialogue, cooperate on a bilateral basis in the areas of economy and security, military affairs.”
“We actively interact within the framework of international organizations and our integration structures,” Putin added in televised remarks.
Sarkisian likewise described Russian-Armenian relations as “strategic” and multifaceted. “Our commercial ties are developing intensively,” he went on, pointing to a 24 percent rise in bilateral trade recorded by the Armenian government in the first half of this year.
Sarkisian also thanked Moscow for helping authorities in Armenia extinguish a massive wildfire that broke out in a nature reserve southeast of Yerevan earlier this month. A Russian water-dropping plane played a major role in the firefighting efforts there.
Neither president mentioned the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict in his opening remarks. A statement on the talks issued by the Kremlin also made no reference to the issue.
According to the Armenian presidential press office, Putin and Sarkisian discussed the Armenian-Azerbaijani dispute after their meeting continued behind closed doors. The office gave no details.
The two leaders made no public statements after the talks held in the presence of Foreign Ministers Sergey Lavrov of Russia and Edward Nalbandian of Armenia.Lavrov has been personally involved in international efforts to broker an Armenian-Azerbaijani peace deal.
Putin met with Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev in Sochi late last month. The Karabakh conflict was also on the agenda.
Putin hosted the most recent Armenian-Azerbaijani summit in Saint-Petersburg in June 2016, two months after four-day hostilities around Karabakh which Moscow helped to halt. The three presidents signaled progress towards a Karabakh settlement right after that meeting. However, the peace process again stalled in the following months.
Russia and the two other mediating powers, the United States and France, now hope to organize another Aliyev-Sarkisian meeting this fall.