EU Encourages Armenian Involvement in Regional Project

YEREVAN (RFE/RL)– A senior official from the European Union has welcomed Armenia’s intention to participate in the upcoming international conference in Azerbaijan on an ambitious project to build new trade routes linking Europe to Central Asia via the Caucasus.

Dennis Corboy–the EU ambassador to the three Transcaucasian countries–told reporters in Yerevan on Monday that the conference in Baku scheduled for September 7 to 8 is an opportunity for Armenia to present its views on the EU-sponsored TRACECA program and secure decisions reflecting its interests. Yerevan has announced that it will participate in the conference with an official delegation headed by Prime Minister Armen Darbinian. President Robert Kocharian turned down an invitation earlier by his Azerbaijan counterpart to attend the important international forum. Armenia’says it is interested in involvement in TRACECA and has already submitted eight various programs.

Corboy admitted on Monday that ethnic disputes in the region represent a serious obstacle to the project’s implementation. He said a dialogue and compromise between all conflicting parties would lead to their final settlement. He called for further efforts within the framework of the OSCE’s Minsk Group to end the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. "We will be very disappointed if Armenia becomes isolated due to the conflicts," he said.

Corboy said the Baku conference is expected to adopt a comprehensive multilateral agreement calling for coordinated policies to facilitate international trade and transit issues. He said that the aim of TRACECA is to boost regional cooperation–the political and economic independence of the region’s states–and their integration in the world economy. According to him–the EU intends to increase its presence in Armenia and has already set up an information center to highlight its activities.

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