Solana Concludes Visit to Armenia Meets Kocharian

YEREVAN (RFE/RL–Noyan Tapan)–NATO Secretary General Javier Solana on Friday met President Robert Kocharian and foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian–ending a two-day visit to Armenia–which he and local officials described as important and productive.

"It was an effective and pretty good visit," Oskanian told the press following Solana’s departure. He said–the "constructive dialogue" focused on the NATO-Armenia relationship and regional issues–including the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. He said he briefed Solana on the latest visit of mediators from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe to the region.

According to Oskanian–the two sides also touched upon the strained relations between Armenia and Turkey–a NATO member.

"The unilateral blockade imposed by Turkey hinders a more rapid development of our relations with NATO," he said. Ankara refuses to establish diplomatic relations and open its border with Yerevan until it recognized Azeri sovereignty over Nagorno-Karabakh. Oskanian also claimed Solana agreed that Armenia’s close military ties with Russia are not an obstacle to the cooperation with the North Atlantic Alliance and that the two "complement each other."

Armenia has been a member of the NATO Partnership for Peace program since 1994.

Solana told Oskanian that the main goal of his visit was to acquaint himself with the current state of Armenia and to discuss relations between Armenia and NATO–specifically Armenia’s possible contribution to the Partnership for Peace Program and the work of partner countries of the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council.

Oskanian emphasized that Armenia was also interested in developing relations with NATO. The efforts of Armenia’s diplomatic mission set up in Brussels–the assignment of a military attach–as well as the increased participation in the Individual Program of Armenia-NATO Partnership were cited as examples of efforts to cooperated with NATO.

Oskanian also stated that in the near future the government of Armenia was scheduled to approve the Individual Partnership Program to be submitted to NATO Headquarters.

Oskanian told Solana about Armenia’s desire to participate in EAPC discussions as far as possible. He expressed concern over the anti-Armenian propaganda launched by some countries at that forum.

The two focused attention on the Conventional Arms in Europe Treaty–peaceful resolutions of conflicts in the region–the activities of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and the Commonwealth of Independence States in the region–the impact of the Russian crisis on the Armenian economy and Armenia’s participation in the TRACECA program.

During the talks–Oskanian presented the results of the recent visit by the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairmen. He stressed that following presidential elections in Azerbaijan the co-chairmen would visit the region.

Oskanian also presented a project proposed by Armenia at last month’s TRACECA conference in Baku. He voiced regret in connection with the divisive position of Turkey and Azerbaijan in relation to these proposals–since economic cooperation could promote the settlement of existing disputes and will further promote the formation of a system of regional security.

Oskanian later told reporters that he had presented cooperation with NATO as one of the examples of Armenia’s foreign–especially regional policy. He asserted that military cooperation with Russia and growing relations with NATO supplement and do not contradict each other.

The international press reported that Solana described as "extremely interesting" the statement made by the Azeri President Haydar Aliyev that Russia was conducting "destabilizing" activities in the region by supplying arms to Armenia and setting up "military bases in the territory of a hostile state".

The foreign minister reported that during talks with Solana–Armenia had raised the issue of the unilateral Turkish blockade of Armenia–adding that Armenia had repeatedly raised the issue of the unilateral blockade imposed on Armenia by Turkey which–in fact–slowed the development of Armenia-NATO relations.

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