Russia Does Not Sign TRACECA Agreement

BAKU–MOSCOW–YEREVAN (Reuters–Xinhua–Armenpress)–A two-day international conference on establishing a transportation corridor between Europe–the Caucasus and Asia concluded Tuesday in Baku–during which the participants signed a multilateral agreement–which was refused by Russia.

The Russian representative stated that since his delegation had not taken part in discussions–it would be difficult for Russia to sign the document.

The agreement addressed problems of taxation–tariffs–road safety–environmental protection and safe-keeping of cargoes–and other legal and technical issues–according to Itar-Tass news agency.

Armenian Prime Minister Armen Darbinian–who headed the official Armenian delegation to Baku was rebuffed in his attempt to get neighbor and conference host Azerbaijan and its ally Turkey to reopen trade routes between the countries.

They have been closed since Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

Darbinian also proposed building a railroad from the Armenian capital Yerevan across Azerbaijan’s enclave of Nakhichevan–which borders Turkey and Iran–and rebuilding a rail route from Turkey’s city of Kars into Armenia.

He was flatly dismissed by Turkish President Suleyman Demirel–who said there could be no question of reopening trade routes closed after ethnic Armenian forces took a large swathe of Azeri land in 1993.

Azeri officials said Darbinian’s ideas were not new and vowed not to trade with Armenia until the conflict was resolved.

However Darbinian’s visit to Baku marked the highest-ranking exchange to date between the two rivals–which have no diplomatic–trade–or communications links.

"The fact that Darbinian is here is highly symbolic in itself," said delegate Cees Wittebrood of the European Union.

Meanwhile back in Yerevan–presidential advisor Aram Sargssian met with the ambassador of the United Kingdom to Armenia John Mitchiner Wednesday–who praised Armenia’s proposals at the TRACECA conference.

Learning of Armenia’s approaches to regional cooperation–the ambassador hailed the proposals of the Armenian delegation at the TRACECA Conference in Baku. Stressing the important role of Armenia in the region–the ambassador pointed out that economic cooperation may help ease political tensions.

The two also discussed the Karabakh settlement. Mitchiner also voiced the opinion of the British Government that all three parties to the conflict should participate in the negotiating process.

According to him–Armenia’s current approaches to the given issue deserve serious discussion.

Fourteen countries that form the core of the TRACECA (Transport Corridor Europe-Caucasus-Asia) group signed the so-called "Baku Declaration" pledging to make the EU-led and funded project a functioning reality. An additional 19 countries took part as observers or "interested parties," as well as 12 international organizations.

The EU has pledged 150 million ECU ($170.5 million) for the project but the total cost of upgrading transport facilities is estimated at nearly $1 billion.

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