US Officials Praise Armenian Reforms

YEREVAN (Noyan Tapan)– Ambassador Richard Morningstar–the State Department official responsible for coordinating US assistance to the Newly Independent States–assured President Robert Kocharian that the US would continue its assistance to Armenia–especially to aid reforms in the energy sector. Amb. Morningstar positively viewed the status of reforms in Armenia.

He said that US-Armenia cooperation is grand and intense–worth $130-140 million. "We are very pleased that the Armenian government agrees with us about the importance of our assistance," Amb. Morningstar said–following his meeting with Prime Minister Armen Darbinian.

"The volume of the assistance we render to Armenia testifies to our devotion to it," Morningstar said.

At the meeting President Kocharian held with the delegation led by the ambassador at large–US Secretary of State’s special advisor on assistance to the Newly Independent States–Stephen Sestanovich–issues discussed included bilateral relations–cooperation in the security sphere–and regional integration. The sides also discussed the issue of peaceful settlement of the Karabakh conflict within the framework of the OSCE Minsk Group.

The exchange of views regarding the democratic and economic reforms in Armenia and improvement in the election system continued for more than an hour. Pointing out the pivotal importance of democracy and human rights issues for authorities–the president also stressed the Armenian government’s consistency in economic reforms.

Kocharian underlined the importance of the transition from humanitarian assistance to technical assistance programs.

Stressing that Armenia’should become the most stable and structured country in the region–Kocharian said–"We are ready to become reliable partners both in business and political relations."

"We were greatly impressed by the new dynamic of economic reforms policy pursued by the new Armenian government," Sestanovich said following his meeting with Prime Minister Darbinian. Attending that meeting were Amb. Morningstar and US Ambassador to Armenia Peter Tomsen.

Discussion centered around the efficient use of US assistance. Both sides again referred to the need for continued economic cooperation–in particular–in such spheres as energy–the development of democratic institutions–regional security.

The US officials expressed the opinion that Armenia’should integrate into various international structures as much as possible. In that regard–they hailed the steps being taken by Armenia toward membership of the World Trade Organization.

Prime Minister Darbinian briefed the US officials on the conceptual approaches of the Armenian government–especially stressing the cabinet’s consistent work toward the realization of the complex program of liberal reforms. The prime minister expressed optimism that the relations between Armenia and the US would help humanitarian assistance turn to technical assistance in the near future.

Sestanovich in turn said that the United States is impressed by the latest successes of the Armenian government–especially in the financial and credit and administrative spheres. "The US government is ready to cooperate with the Armenian authorities in all directions," he added.

Also on Wednesday–Sestanovich met with Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian.

During the meeting Oskanian presented Armenia’s approaches to the Karabakh settlement–pointing to the importance of the package solution without preliminary conditions.

Thereafter–the minister presented Armenia’s stance on OSCE summit scheduled to be held in Istanbul–stressing that Armenia considers it unacceptable that a summit be held in a country that does not have diplomatic relations with some of the OSCE-member countries and is also blockading certain OSCE members.

Oskanian also said that Armenia considers it unacceptable that the summit adopt a European Security Charter in Turkey–a country that has a low rating in human rights protection.

During the meeting the sides also discussed issues of bilateral relations–pointing to the importance of furthering and strengthening US-Armenian cooperation–especially within the framework of the OSCE–NATO and other international organizations.

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