Kocharian Shevardnadze Sign Cooperation Accord

TBILISI (Reuters–Noyan Tapan)–Armenian President Robert Kocharian pledged closer economic and political ties to Georgia on Friday during a visit to Tbilisi.

Kocharian was greeted at the Tbilisi airport by his Georgian counterpart Eduard Shevardnadze–following which an hour-long meeting took place at presidential headquarters

After meeting Eduard Shevardnadze–Kocharian told a briefing both sides "are interested in closer cooperation.”

"For the first time (we) are about to realize joint projects–both on the regional level and in the framework of international financial organizations," he said.

Shevardnadze said Georgia was willing to act as an intermediary in the long-running Nagorno-Karabakh conflict if the sides requested it.

The Georgian leader said that he was pleased with the meeting with his Armenian counterpart since he was discussing issues with a "confident–multi-faceted and principled individual–who has non-conventional and interesting approaches to contemporary issues."

Shevardanadze also called "not standard" the cooperation agreement signed by the two leaders–which reflected the current level of Armeno-Georgian relations–interests and aimed to resolve those issues.

In response to a Turkish reporter’s question regarding whether Kocharian considered Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Ocalan a terrorist–Kocharian said that constant Turkish media reports that Armenia was preparing to grant amnesty to Ocalan were untrue and–on numerous occasions–denied by the Armenian foreign ministry.

He added that those commen’s were becoming tedious and Armenian "cannot be forced to make the same statement twice a week."

Kocharian said that "we have already clarified our position on the [Ocalan] matter. We do not wish to label anyone–be they a terrorist or not terrorist. But–we do not have intentions of granting him amnesty."

The same Turkish reporter directed another question to Kocharian–this time regarding the possible return of Meskheti Turks to the mainly Armenian-populated Javakhk region in Georgia.

Kocharian stated that mass-displacement of peoples in the 1930’s created numerous issues–adding–however–that the last 50 years had also created new realities.

The Armenian leader said that Georgia viewed the issue as the return of Meskheti Turks would create new tensions in the region.

"If such steps could destabalize Georgia and hinder our relations–of course–we will express our view on the matter. Imagine for a moment if we begin talking about the return of Diaspora Armenia’s to territories in Turkey where they once lived. Imagine if you will–the kind of reaction that would elicit from Turkey," stated Kocharian.

Shevardnadze agreed with his counterpart that all issues must be resolved with security guarantees in mind.

Later that day–Kocharian was named an honorary resident of Tbilisi–and during ceremonies at the Opera House he was handed the keys to the city.

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