Solana Ends Visit to Armenia

YEREVAN (Noyan Tapan) — NATO Secretary General Javier Solana said that meetings he attended in Armenia enabled him to better understand and obtain a fuller idea of the situation in the Transcaucusus.

Solana said that the sides discussed three main topics during the meetings: prospects of development in the region–bilateral relations between NATO and Armenia–especially in the framework of the "Partnership for Peace" program and a general idea of a European security structure.

At a news conference held on Wednesday–Solana stressed that one of the major tasks of NATO is to ensure security not only in Europe–but also in neighboring countries. This matter is one of the most important aspects of the Partnership for Peace Program.

Armenia’s Foreign Minister Alexander Arzoumanian noted that the visit by Solana to Armenia is very important because Armenia considers its integration into the European structures very important and is willing to establish close contacts with organizations responsible for the security in Europe.

Solana did not agree with reports that his visit may sour the relations between Armenia and Russia. He also denied the accusations by the Russian Foreign Ministry’s official that the visit has a "secret agenda." He stressed that his visit to the region was part of the Partnership for Peace Program and he intends to visit all the countries interested in the Program.

Arzoumanian stressed that Armenia was and always will be Russia’s strategic ally. Armenia understands Russia’s concerns over the extension of NATO to the east. At the same time Armenia believes that NATO’s extension is a sovereign right of the countries participating in this process and that security must be guaranteed for all the interested parties.

Arzoumanian also said that the establishment of positive relations between neighboring countries is the greatest guarantee of its security.

Solana–speaking at the American University of Armenia–addressed the statement by Russian Security Council Secretary Ivan Rybkin about the possibility of the first nuclear strike by Russia as "unwise."

According to Solana–the accumulation of weapons in Cyprus was dangerous because the region wass already packed with weapons. Solana said that one should not give any preference to or lower the principles of territorial integrity or the self-determination of nations.

Arzoumanian later briefed Solana on economic reforms in Armenia and the state of Armenia’s relations with international organizations such as the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe– the European Union and the Council of Europe.

Solana said that the security structure of the 21st century gives firm guarantees for all countries. The NATO expansion program favors the settlement of conflicts in the region and the maintenance of peace and stability in Transcaucasia.

Lastly–the sides noted that the draft program for the current year may provide a chance for Armenia to participate in military exercises–to familiarize itself with NATO operations–and to accumulate intellectual potential for the future.

After his visit to Armenia–Solana boarded a flight to Baku.

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