Chinese President Xi Jinping meets with Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan in Beijing, May 14, 2019

China’s Xi Sees Closer Ties With Armenia

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BEIJING (RFE/RL) — Chinese President Xi Jinping reportedly reaffirmed China’s desire to deepen political, economic and cultural ties with Armenia when he met with Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan in Beijing on Tuesday, May 14.

“Xi Jinping expressed confidence that bilateral cooperation will develop soon in the areas of trade, industry, transport and culture,” Pashinyan’s press office said in a statement on the talks. “The Chinese president added that his country will continue to support projects that will contribute to Armenia’s development and enhance the well-being of the Armenian people.”

“We are united by the common goals of cooperation of civilizations,” the statement quoted Xi as saying. “We are well aware of momentous events in the history of Armenia. We believe that tragic events that befell the Armenian people must be prevented in the future.”

“Our peoples represent ancient civilizations,” Pashinyan said for his part. “Already in the 5th century Armenian manuscripts described ties between the two peoples.”

“Constructive and productive relations with China are very important for us,” he added.

Chinese-Armenian relations have been cordial ever since Armenia gained independence in 1991. Xi and former Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian reported “mutual understanding on issues relating to pivotal interests and concerns of the two countries” after holding talks in Beijing in 2015.

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China underscored its interest in Armenia in 2017 when it started building a new and much bigger building for its embassy in Yerevan. It will reportedly be the second largest Chinese diplomatic mission in the former Soviet Union.

Chinese aid to Armenia has totaled at least $50 million since 2012. In addition, the Chinese government has spent over $12 million on building and equipping a school in Yerevan where hundreds of Armenian children study the Chinese language.

Pashinyan attended the inauguration of the Chinese-Armenian Friendship School in August last year. Speaking at the opening ceremony, he said that having many Chinese speakers is an “economic necessity” for Armenia.

China is Armenia’s second largest trading partner. According to official Armenian statistics, Chinese-Armenian trade soared by over 29 percent in 2018, to $771 million. Exports of Chinese goods to Armenia accounted for 86 percent of that figure.

Xi was reported to tell Pashinyan that China is ready to participate in major infrastructure projects in Armenia such as the ongoing reconstruction of the country’s highways stretching from Iran to Georgia. A Chinese company is already carrying out highway upgrades in the northwestern Shirak region.

Pashinyan said Yerevan is interested in the implementation of “joint projects” as part of Beijing’s ambitious Belt and Road program to re-create the old Silk Road.

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According to the Armenian government statement, the two leaders also discussed international security issues and the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

As part of his working visit to Beijing, Pashinyan attend and addressed on Wednesday, May 15, the Conference on Dialogue of Asian Civilizations organized by the Chinese government.

 

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