Prime Minister Sarkissian Begins United States Visit

WASHINGTON-Armenian Prime Minister Armen Sarkissian arrived in Washington Sunday for his first working visit to the United States.

The main purpose of Sarkissian’s visit is to meet with the leadership of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund to discuss ways of adjusting the existing cooperation between them and Armenia for upcoming projects.

The Prime Minister met with Rear Admiral Paul G. Gaffney– II–Chief of US Naval Research on Tuesday. Only three CIS countries–among them Armenia–have so far had successful working relations with the Naval Research Laboratory–which conducts scientific research in many high technology areas.

Issues of further extension of the areas of joint research were discussed and agreed upon. Admiral Gaffney gladly accepted Prime Minister Sarkissian’s invitation to visit Armenia to get acquainted with its scientific potential first-hand.

During an interview with the foreign editors of the "Washington Times," Sarkissian discussed his position on a number of issues–including perspective avenues of development of regional cooperation in the Transcaucasus– ways of achieving peace and stability in the region and trade and economic collaboration with Armenia’s immediate neighbors.

Sarkissian also introduced the Armenian governmen’s agenda of radical reforms in the economic and social sectors–the main objective of which is to transform Armenia into a strategic centerpiece of the region by creating a powerful infrastructure for rapid trade and economic growth– and by attracting international investment.

Later in the afternoon–Sarkissian met with Co-Chairman of the Congressional Caucus–Congressman John Porter. During their brief meeting–Sarkissian and Congressman Porter discussed the issue of restoring Armenia’s image as a regional role model for a market economy based on democratic principles. Sarkissian briefed Congressman Porter on the governmen’s policy of bridging the gap between the leadership and the opposition by establishing an on-going dialogue with all political parties and organizations. The first round of political discussions with the opposition leaders has already begun–he said.

Immediately thereafter–the Prime Minister met with president of the International Foundation for Elections– Richard Soudriette. During the meeting–Sarkissian presented his program aimed at strengthening democratic institutions in Armenia–especially independent media–by providing favorable economic conditions for expanding the existing and establishing new operations.

"The first thing we did–we dissolved the Ministry of Information that existed before," said Sarkissian–adding that this was an important step towards removing the remnants of Soviet mentality.

In his address to the representatives of the Armenian- American community at a reception hosted by the Armenian Embassy–Prime Minister Sarkissian outlined Armenia’s plans to consolidate the efforts aimed at sustaining macroeconomic stability–strengthening the free-market economy and attracting large international and domestic investmen’s. Sarkissian also emphasized the fact that the government is currently working on a set of laws designed to establish a legal environment to accelerate the privatization and investment processes in the country.

"There are a lot of achievemen’s also in our economy-there are a lot of changes in our country towards a free-market economy–privatization–but of course–there are a lot of difficulties as well," Sarkissian said to the 250-plus gathering of diplomats and public officials.

"We are a proud nation that can not only survive–but can fight for its ideas–and who has survived inhumane conditions for the first five years of our independence," he said.

Speaking about Armenia-Diaspora relations–Sarkissian said that the government encourages more active cooperation between the Diaspora and Armenia–and specifically emphasized the importance of strengthening links with Armenian communities around the world. Such attitude has been manifested by the creation of a new government body to specifically address these issues–he said.

Accompanying the Prime Minister to the January 7 meetings were Armenian Minister of Trade–Garnik Nanagulian–and Armenia’s Ambassador to the US–Rouben Shugarian.

In addition to his meeting with representative of the World Bank and the IMF–Prime Minister Sarkissian will meet with members of the US business community to discuss avenues of closer cooperation. Sarkissian will also have meetings with White House and State Department officials–a number of US Senators and Congressman–as well as with representatives of the leading policy-making institutions of the United States.

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