ALMATY — Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and his new Russian counterpart Mikhail Mishustin hailed rapidly growing trade between their countries and pledged to further deepen Russian-Armenian commercial ties when they met for the first time on Friday.

The two men held talks on the sidelines of a meeting in Kazakhstan’s largest city, Almaty, of the prime ministers of the five ex-Soviet states making up the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU), a Russian-led trade bloc.

“Relations between our countries, governments have always been and will be good and warm,” Pashinyan said in his opening remarks at the talks. “I think that we always have a chance to elevate our relations to a new level.”

Mishustin assured him that Russia’s newly reshuffled government is “intent on continuing constructive relations and working contacts with our Armenian colleagues.” He said that Russian-Armenian trade soared by nearly 18 percent in January-November 2018, solidifying Russia’s status as Armenia’s number one trading partner.

“This is good,” he said. “We should cement this positive trend and look for new fields of cooperation.”

Pashinyan likewise noted that bilateral trade was on track to approach the $2 billion mark last year. He said this is one of the reasons why economic growth in Armenia accelerated to over 7 percent.

“I hope that your government will support the economic dynamic which we have in Armenia right now,” added the Armenian leader.

According to an Armenian government statement, the two premiers then discussed a “wide range of issues pertaining to Russian-Armenian economic relations.” The statement cited Mishustin as proposing that Moscow and Yerevan explore possibilities of launching “concrete projects in the information technology sector.” Pashinyan welcomed the idea, it said.

Mishustin, whom Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin appointed as prime minister on January 16, attended a global IT forum held in Yerevan in October. The 53-year-old technocrat headed Russia’s Federal Tax Service at the time.

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