Pallone Kennedy Meet with Karabakh Officials

YEREVAN (Noyan Tapan)–Karabakh President Arkady Ghoukassian met on Monday with US Congressmen Frank Pallone (D-NJ) and Patrick Kennedy (D-RI) at the offices of the Karabakh permanent mission to Armenia. The sides discussed issues relative to the settlement of the Karabakh conflict. The congressmen presented in detail their approach and assured that they will continue working for the peaceful solution to the problem.

Ghoukassian emphasized that the sides cannot reach mutually admissible results unless the parties negotiate directly with each other. He also noted that the mediators must propose a truly compromising version without any preliminary conditions.

The meeting was attended by Karabakh Prime Minister Leonard Petrossian and US Charge d’Affairs to Armenia Brady Kiesling.

On Tuesday–Pallone and Kennedy traveled to Karabakh where in the morning they visited the Memorial Complex in Stepanakert to pay tribute to the memory of those who gave their lives for the independence and freedom of Karabakh.

Thereafter–the guests met with the speaker of Karabakh’s Parliament Oleg Yesayan. On behalf of the republic’s supreme legislative body–Yesayan thanked the guests for their attitude feeling toward the Armenian people and for their support of Karabakh. In particular–Yesayan said he did not share the opinion that their position is pro-Armenian but rather pro-humanity. He stressed the important role of both congressmen–as well as the Armenian Caucus in the US Congress in promoting a just position for the United States in the Karabakh conflict resolution process.

Congressman Kennedy said that there are many in the West who are inclined to think that it is impossible to establish a state in this small enclave–however–the people of Karabakh–did it and became a serious force in the region. He said that oil investmen’s will depend on whether stability can or cannot be ensured in the region–which–in turn–is impossible without achieving a final solution to the Karabakh conflict.

Acknowledging that any direct Azeri control of Karabakh seems unrealistic and referring to the importance of the factor of ensuring the security of territories–Kennedy advised that international guarantees not be underestimated. He said that the sides’ constructive positions and willingness to make compromises is also important along with the protection of their own rights.

Speaking of the unprincipled position of the US in the Karabakh settlement–Pallone stated that positive changes in the State Department had been observed lately–in particular–in the issue of direct negotiations between Baku and Stepanakert. The Armenian Caucus in Congress also contributed to the cause. The congressmen reported on the activities of the group to obstruct the recognition of Article 907 of the Freedom Support Act as null and void–as well as to clarify the fate of US aid to Nagorno-Karabakh equal to $12.5 million. Pallone gave assurances that they would promote the increase of aid to Nagorno-Karabakh next year.

Yesayan presented Karabakh’s position in the conflict settlement and thoroughly answered the congressmen’s questions. At the end of the meeting–Yesayan presented the congressmen with souvenirs. Kennedy–in turn–gave Yesayan a memorable medal with the picture of US President John F. Kennedy.

After the parliament meeting–the guests visited several local factories and enterprises as well as the Caroline Cox Orthopedic Center. The congressmen returned to Yerevan the same day.

At a Tuesday news conference in Yerevan–Pallone and Kennedy said that the US government should proceed from the real state of affairs in the Karabakh issue–from the existence of the independent Nagorno-Karabakh Republic.

"The Nagorno-Karabakh Republic has its state attributes–such as its own Parliament–government–army and it can effectively control its territories. The US Government must reckon with the reality which arose over the past decade," Congressman Kennedy said.

Pallone said that the US government should be less guided by the principle of preservation of the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan–but admit that the latest offers of the OSCE Minsk Group are no good–and encourage direct talks between the three parties to the conflict–Azerbaijan–Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh. In particular–he positively assessed Karabakh’s offer to establish relations with Azerbaijan.

Kennedy expressed the opinion that Armenia is the United States’ major ally in the region–as it is more committed to the democratic and free market principles than its neighbors. Pointing out that there is political and economic stability in Armenia–the congressmen urged the Armenian Diaspora to increase the might of Armenia by its political activeness and investment in the country’s economy.

Pallone spoke in favor of the "Silk Road Bill" being debated in Congress–and found it inadmissible that the US government is trying to liquidate Article 907 of the Freedom Support Act through that bill. He also denounced his government’s point of view that oil is the most important thing in the region for the US.

"Even if it were true–it is wrong to invest in oil-producing countries only and pressure others–as it would be a constant source for instability," he said.

The congressmen–both of whom are members of the Armenian Caucus of the House of Representatives–visited Armenia and Karabakh to study the situation and the current political and economic reforms in Armenia–as well as monitor the allocation of US humanitarian aid to Karabakh. They held meetings with the presidents of both countries and other officials.

"Your president is doing a wonderful job," said US Senator Chuck Hagel–in an interview with "Azg." The senator–who is also visiting the Transcaucasus–said he felt the relationship between Armenia and Turkey will eventually improve–and that the best way to achieve that is direct talks and dialogue. He said–neither the US nor any other country can impose any solutions as far as the principle of territorial integrity is concerned. Hagel also predicted greater cooperation among the three Transcaucasian states as they are already making "huge efforts" in that direction.

Hagel also said that the US should cooperate with Russia when pursuing its interests in the region. Otherwise–he observed–it will be extremely difficult to achieve peace between Armenia and Azerbaijan. Asked about possible recognition by the US Congress of the 1915 Armenian Genocide–the Republican senator said–"It’s not Congress’s job to deal with that." The problem should be resolved by Turkey and Armenia–he concluded.

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