William Burns

CIA Director, Russian Intelligence Chief Visit Armenia in the Same Week


YEREVAN (RFE/RL) — Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan on July 15 received U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Director William Burns, Pashinyan’s press office said.

The two “discussed issues related to international and regional security and the fight against terrorism. Reference was made to processes taking place in the South Caucasus region,” the brief statement said.

While in Yerevan, Burns also met with the secretary of Armenia’s Security Council, Armen Grigoryan, whose office said the two discussed issues related to the further development of U.S.- Armenia bilateral relations.

Grigoryan outlined for the CIA director the security environment in the region, existing challenges, and Armenia’s approach to establishing peace in the region, a statement from Grigoryan’s office said.

“The sides talked about Armenia-Azerbaijan and Armenia-Turkey negotiation processes,” the statement said.

Official Armenian bodies and the U.S. Embassy in Yerevan would not comment on media reports about Burns’ visit to Yerevan.

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Burns, 66, served as U.S. ambassador to Russia from 2005-08. He visited Armenia and Azerbaijan in 2011 in his capacity as U.S. deputy secretary of state.

During that trip, he urged a greater “sense of urgency” for the resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, saying that “the status quo is not sustainable.”

Russian Intelligence Director Visits

The head of Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) met with Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan in Yerevan on Monday, July 18, three days after Burns’ unexpected arrival in Armenia.

The Armenian government’s press office said Sergei Naryshkin discussed with Pashinyan “international and regional security” and “processes taking place in the South Caucasus.” It did not elaborate.

The office used the same words in a statement on Pashinyan’s meeting with Burns held on Friday. It said they also touched upon “the fight against terrorism.”

Neither the CIA nor the US State Department has commented so far on what was the first-ever publicized visit to Armenia by a CIA director.

“My visit to Yerevan is definitely not connected with the arrival of my American colleague,” the state-run Russian news agency Sputnik quoted Naryshkin as saying. “But I don’t exclude that his visit is on the contrary connected with mine.”

Incidentally, Sputnik was the first to reveal Burns’ visit. It said that the CIA chief will stay in Armenia for several hours.

Tigran Grigoryan, an Armenian political analyst, told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service on Friday that US and Russian security “experts” arrived in Yerevan in recent days for confidential discussions focusing on the war in Ukraine.

Burns, 66, is a former career diplomat who served as US ambassador to Russia from 2005 to 2008. He visited Moscow in his current capacity last November. He reportedly warned the Kremlin against invading Ukraine.

Pashinyan’s press office implied that Russian-Armenian relations were also on the agenda of his talks with Naryshkin. It cited the Russian intelligence chief as praising the “high-level political dialogue between Russia and Armenia.”

Naryshkin told Russian media outlets after the talks that Russia and Armenia have a “great deal of common tasks which need to be accomplished.” He also touted Russian-led alliances of former Soviet republics of which Armenia is a member.

“Besides, the Russian Federation has enough strength and resources to protect allies and friends in difficult times,” added Naryshkin.

Pashinyan spoke with Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin by phone earlier in the day . According to the Russian government’s readout of the call, they discussed Russian-Armenian trade and the “implementation of large joint projects.”

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