YEREVAN (RFE/RL) — Russia will refrain from raising the price of its natural gas supplied to Armenia next year, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said during an official visit to Yerevan on Tuesday.

Speaking after talks with his Armenian counterpart Karen Karapetian, Medvedev also praised the current state of Russian-Armenian relations and growing bilateral trade in particular. “We made sure that our ties are developing in all directions,” he told a joint news conference.

“Russia remains the leading trading partner of Armenia,” Medvedev said. “Bilateral commercial exchange has been growing — both in 2016 and 2017 — and growing at a good pace.”

In that regard, he pointed to increased exports to Russia of Armenian agricultural products and prepared foodstuffs which he said are of “excellent quality.” Citing a continuing Russian ban food imports from Western nations, he spoke of “good potential” for a further rise in those exports.

Medvedev went on to announce that the “special price” of Russian gas for Armenia will not rise next year “even though we had agreed on somewhat different parameters” before. “I think that this will help to improve the overall economic and investment situation in Armenia,” he stressed.

Alexei Miller, the chairman of Russia’s Gazprom giant who accompanied Medvedev on the trip, confirmed that Armenia will thus continue to pay $150 per thousand cubic meters of Russian gas. This wholesale price was set in April 2016.

Armenia’s Gazprom-owned gas distributions network cut its retail tariffs in November 2016, more than two months after Karapetian was appointed as prime minister. Karapetian managed the network from 2001-2010 and held senior executive positions in Gazprom subsidiaries in Russia from 2011-2016.

Gazprom accounts for over 80 percent of Armenia’s annual gas imports. The South Caucasus country also buys gas from neighboring Iran. Energy Minister Ashot Manukian insisted last week that Russian gas costs it less than Iranian gas.

Incidentally, Medvedev and Karapetian discussed the possibility of Russian companies investing in a free economic zone which is due to be set up on Armenia’s border with Iran later this year.

“We believe that the free economic zone is a good platform for Russian capital and Russian business with interests in Iran,” said the Armenian premier. Russian-Armenian “intensive” discussions on the matter will be completed soon, he added without elaborating.

“There are practically no spheres where we do not cooperate,” Medvedev told President Serzh Sarkisian when they met later in the day. He again singled out a 30 percent rise in Russian-Armenian trade registered by Moscow this year.

Medvedev and Karapetian will attend on Wednesday a regular meeting in Yerevan with fellow prime ministers from the three other ex-Soviet states that are part of the Russian-led Eurasian Economic Union.

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