Armenia’s new prime minister, Nikol Pashinian, is traveling to the Russian resort city of Sochi, where he is expected to have his first face-to-face meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin since taking over the Caucasus nation’s leadership.
Pashinian broadcast live on Facebook late on May 13 from Yerevan’s Zvartnots International Airport that he was departing for Sochi to attend the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) summit, which begins May 14.
The EEU consists of Russia, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan
While in Sochi, Pashinian is expected to have a bilateral meeting with Putin.
Russia is a crucial ally for the small Caucasus nation. It has some 3,000 troops based there and helps guard the tense border with Turkey.
Many had questioned Pashinian's intentions toward Moscow after the former opposition activist and lawmaker was elected prime minister following several weeks of antigovernment protests.
After taking office, Pashinian attempted to ease concerns about a potential break with Moscow.
"Allied relations with Russia should be based on friendship, equality, and mutual willingness to solve problems," Pashinian told the parliament.
"We see military cooperation with Russia as the main factor guaranteeing Armenia's security, " he said.
He also said, however, that he would "actively develop" cooperation with the United States, the European Union, Iran, Georgia, China, and India.
Kremlin aide Yury Ushakov said the two leaders' first contact is "especially important in the sense that the heads of state will get acquainted with each other."
“I do not think that deep discussions will be held on the issues of bilateral relations at once. On the other hand, it is natural that some issues will be discussed," he added.
Meanwhile, the Armenian government press office said on May 13 that Pashinian spoke by telephone with Iranian President Hassan Rohani, with the leaders agreeing that the two neighbors should expand "mutually beneficial cooperation."
"Nikol Pashinian and Hassan Rohani discussed issues related to friendly Armenian-Iranian relations and cooperation, as well as a number of international and regional issues," the press service said.
The statement said the leaders "exchanged views on recent developments in Iran's nuclear program."
It said the two sides expressed hopes for a peaceful settlement of the situation following the decision by U.S. President Donald Trump on May 8 to withdraw from the landmark 2015 nuclear accord signed by Tehran and six world powers.
The deal provides Tehran with relief from sanctions in return for curbs on its nuclear program.
The two leaders also agreed to work on arrangements for a future face-to-face meeting, the statement said.