12, 2013

Statement of President Serzh Sargsyan at the Third Armenian-Russian Interregional Forum

Distinguished President of the Russian Federation,
Dear Friends, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am sincerely glad to welcome Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin who has arrived to Armenia on a state visit. From the Russian side, the Forum is attended by the First Vice-Chairman of the Government Igor Shuvalov, seven federal Ministers, seven heads of regions, heads of Rosatom, Rosneft, Gazprom, Vneshtorgbank, and a number of other major Russian enterprises. Present here are also representatives of civil society from 20 regions, heads of local governance bodies, representatives of scientific and creative intelligentsia. This representative attendance testifies to a great interest in and intention to conduct serious and determined work. We are glad to see you, welcome.

Today, Gyumri, which has always been a symbol of the intertwined history of our two peoples and countries, has truly become a symbol for future Armenian-Russian relations. Back in distant 1829, during his journey to the Caucasus, the great poet Alexander Pushkin on his way to the biblical Ararat stopped in Gyumri. In 1837, a Russian fortress was built here and the town was visited by the Russian Emperor Nikolay I. The town was renamed Alexandrapol in honor of his spouse, Empress Alexandra. Two of the most prominent Russian regiments were stationed here – 18th North dragoon regiment. Two future Soviet marshals – Semyon Budennyi and Vasily Agapin, author of the all-national march the “Farewell of Slavyanka”- served in this regiment. This regiment had showed distinction in many battles and had been decorated with a number of high Russian awards and indeed should be regarded as a crucible of battle comradeship which is carried on by the 102 Russian military base, which we will visit today. Here, in Gyumri is located the Hill of Honor – the pantheon of the Russian officers who fell in the Russian-Turkish war.

The Forum organized in Gyumri these days, is singular for one more reason: 25 years ago, a devastating earthquake caused damage to the entire town. Over twenty-five thousand people died, hundreds of thousands were left homeless. The infrastructure of the town was ruined, industrial activities collapsed. We are thankful to all people of good will, to all countries of the world, to the peoples of the Soviet Union, and certainly, first of all to Russia for its invaluable contribution to the reconstruction of the disaster area and town of Gyumri. A real symbol, the embodiment of that assistance is Nikolay Ivanovich Ryzhkov, who is present here today. Vladimir Vladimirovich, as a conscientious person, he is already at the Memorial dedicated to the victims of the earthquake and is waiting for us to arrive. He is a Co-Chair of the Armenian-Russian interparliamentary commission, but in those days, he was the Chairman of the Soviet government. Nikolay Ryzhkov knows that the people of Gyumri view him as a one of them. Nobody here will forget how selflessly he assumed the coordination of the “find and rescue” works, and later, the works of rehabilitation in the most difficult days, right after the catastrophe. He was rightly named the Honorary Citizen of Gyumri and is the only non-Armenian who received the high title of the National Hero of Armenia.

Dear Colleagues,

We are living in a rapidly changing word. New approaches are in constant demand, and it is easier to find them working together, in the framework of integration unions and processes. That’s the reason behind Armenia’s decision to join the Customs Union and the Common Economic Area of Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus. Today’s Forum is dedicated to that topic.

It’s been only three months since Armenia announced her decision to join the Customs Union, however huge amount of work has already been accomplished. The Eurasian Economic Supreme Council has already adopted a relevant decision. The Government of the Republic of Armenia and the Eurasian Economic Commission have already signed a memorandum. Created are twenty-two working groups which are working to prepare necessary events and legislative amendments. In addition, a number of mechanisms for the utilization of important privileges and benefits, which are being used among the countries of the Customs Union, have already been agreed upon for Armenia on a bilateral basis. I would like to express special thanks for that to the President of Russia. Vladimir Vladimirovich, it’s been an act of a real partner and real friend. It’s been important for enhancing the vitality of the Armenian economy. Thank you.

The new level of the Armenian-Russian economic cooperation is called up to match with the level of the political dialogue and strategic partnership of our countries and contains great potential for Armenia as well as for Russia. Armenia has achieved considerable results in reforming her business and administration area. Our country occupies the 6th place in the world in the “Ease of Doing Business" ranking. Indices of economic freedom and business environment placed us the first among the CIS countries. Armenia has huge potential in information technologies, agriculture, jewelry production and tourism areas. The policy of “open skies” adopted by Armenia presents wide opportunities for the expansion of the geography of air transportation, including to the regions of Russia. Today, there are already 12 daily flights between Yerevan and Moscow; flights are conducted between Moscow, Saint Petersburg and Gyumri, while 19 cities of Armenia and Russia are connected by 130 weekly flights. These numbers, certainly, have tendencies to rise.

Armenia is the shortest route to the markets of Iran and countries of Persian Gulf. We have already adopted the entire legislative package for the creation of free economic zones which will make Armenia more attractive for investments, including export-oriented investments.

There are nearly 1300 enterprises with the Russian capital functioning in Armenia – it is more than a quarter of all foreign capital based enterprises in the country. Leading Russian companies such as Gazprom, Inter RAO EAS, VTB Bank, Rostelecom, Russian Railways Russian Aluminum, Systema Financial Stock Corporation, group of Geopromaining companies, MTS are working efficiently. In the framework of this visit, an agreement will be signed with the Russian leading oil company Rosneft on the Company’s entry into the Armenian market.

Russia is Armenia’s main trading partner. In 2012, the turnover reached 1, 300,000,000 USD which is a 20 percent increase compared to year 2011. In nine months of this year, we have already crossed the threshold of a billion and exports from Armenia have increased by 24 percent.

I am confident that the trade and economic relations will receive another impetus by the “Program of Long-term Economic Cooperation until 2020 between the Republic of Armenia and Russian Federation” adopted by our governments.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Interregional cooperation in the Armenian-Russian bilateral agenda occupies a special place. Economic potential, territory and population of each Russian region is comparable with the economy of an entire country. I am glad that the works of the Forum are not limited by plenary meetings only. Yesterday, the Russian delegation visited all marzes of Armenia; tomorrow the work will continue in sections and in the format of exhibitions presented by the marzes and major enterprises. I hope that concrete agreements will be reached, and your contact will become regular. Heads of our regions should visit regularly their counterpart regions of Russia, and search for mechanisms to intertwine our economies to develop our cooperation. We should develop and approve new and concrete measures to enhance our cooperation.

Meanwhile, we at the state level will continue to create all necessary conditions for increasing the efficiency of the interregional cooperation: will continue joint efforts aimed at the purposeful implementation of the infrastructure projects, including the restoration of a direct railroad link between Armenia and Russia, to remove all bureaucratic obstacles and restraints, to provide wide information support to the mass media. Work with the mass media, including regional ones, should receive special attention. The Armenia-Russian media forum “On the slope of Ararat” has been held three years in a row. I believe that this initiative should be supported on the state level with the organization of regular reciprocal visits of the representatives of the Russian media to Armenia and of the Armenian media to Russia, including visits to the regions. Three Russian TV channels are broadcasted on the territory of Armenia – ORT, Rossia-RTR, Kultura, and the Russian-language channel of the CIS MIR. Russian language papers such as Novoe Vremya, Golos Armenii, etc, are being published in Armenia.

It is also necessary to expand the geography of the regions of the Russian Federation which cooperate directly with the regions of the Republic of Armenia. Today, they reach 70 and we genuinely want to see this number grow so that joint enterprises of a regional scope also increase in number. Based on this, we will be able to utilize more efficiently potential of the regions and boost the prosperity of our citizens. Vladimir Vladimirovich, I suggest we direct our Administrations to develop joint programs of education and advanced training for senior officials on the base of our Academy of Sciences, Academy of National Economy and RF Presidential State Service. I believe it will be helpful for our common endeavor.

Certainly, our interregional cooperation is not limited to economy; it encompasses many other areas. Literally days ago, Gyumri passed the baton as the cultural capital of CIS. For the entire year, the town was full of festive events with the participation of many art workers from the CIS countries. The closing ceremony was attended by the Russian National Philharmonic Orchestra led by Vladimir Spivakov. In October, in Yerevan conducted was the Conference of the Translators and Publishers from the CIS and Baltic States and this event has already become a good tradition. The Armenian audience watched the staging of Dostoevsky’s “Karamazov Brothers” novel by the renowned choreographer Boris Eifman. Russian theatrical groups are frequent guests of our theaters as well as prominent and beloved artists such as Yuri Bashmet and Valeri Gergiev, Levon Oganezov and Evgeni Petrossian, Dmitry Kharatian and Armen Jigarkhanian, Evgeni Kisin and Denis Matsuev. This orbit of cooperation attracts youth and public organizations, educational and scientific centers. I am glad that terms and conditions on the opening in Armenia of the branch of the Moscow State University have already been agreed upon. The Armenian-Russian Slavonic University has nearly 2500 students. I think it would be justified to introduce classes of the Armenian language in those schools in the Russian neighborhoods which have concentrated Armenian communities.

Since times of Peter the Great, Armenians were searching for ways to expand trade and promote their businesses in Russia. They contributed to the strengthening of the Russian state with their work and their efforts. From military commanders to state figures, from singers and composers to industrialists and entrepreneurs, the Armenians of Russia have been and remain worthy citizens of Russia and devoted sons of their nation. Despite its small number, the Russian community in Armenia has been playing an important role in different areas of the Armenian life. In many cases, it is also thanks to the efforts of the communities that ties between our countries are so rich, diverse and steady.

However there are still things to do in that direction. It is unacceptable for even the tiniest parts of our societies to have suspicions, xenophobia or manifestation of extremism. We are two peoples which fought shoulder to shoulder in the Great Patriotic War and we have to state zero tolerance towards any manifestation of fascism. It runs contrary to the spirit and system of values of our two societies, it runs contrary to the glory and legacy of the Great Victory.

New generations of the citizens of our two countries will continue the Armenian-Russia cooperation and will enrich it with new initiatives. Our two nations, particularly representatives of the younger generations, should know much more about each other. On the local level, through the joint efforts we should speak widely about friendship and fraternity of our two nations; educational institutions should organize student and youth exchanges and meetings.

I wish the participants of the Forum fruitful work. I am confident that ideas and proposals developed during this Forum will promote the implementation of practical and basically perspective projects.

Thank you for attention.

And now it is my pleasure to give the floor to the President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin.

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