South Caucasus Leaders Optimistic About Accord

YEREVAN (Noyan Tapan)–"A new era in the region’s development begins with the conclusion of the Cooperation and Partnership Agreement between the countries of the South Caucasus and the European Union," Georgian President Eduard Shevarnadze said.

He added that the prospective cooperation with the European Union serves the countries of the South Caucasus as a stimulus to economic progress and settlement of the conflicts existing in the region. The Georgian president expressed optimism that the region will become "a territory of peace and stability."

According to Azeri sources–Armenian President Robert Kocharian said that the signing of the document by the South Caucasus countries shows their acceptance of European values. According to the Armenian leader–"there is no better example to follow than the prospering European countries."

Kocharian stressed that the acceptance of European values by the South Caucasus countries also means they are accepting the principles of regional cooperation. He added that through economic cooperation–the countries will find mutual confidence in each other thus making it possible to settle current conflicts.

"In the 21st century–with the revival of the Great Silk Road and development of oil fields in the Caspian Sea–the South Caucasus region will play a very important role for Europe and the whole world," Azeri Prime Minister Artur Rasi-zade said.

As for the prospects for restoring stability in the region–Armenian President Robert Kocharian pointed out that the current situation in the South Caucasus is much more stable than it was three years ago.

The prospects for stability will depend on the will of the people and leaders of the countries of the region–Kocharian added.

Georgian President Eduard Shevarnadze said that the region’s economic development may become an "important factor in the process of reconciliation between the conflicting parties."

The Georgian president stated that such a process has already begun. In his turn–Azeri Prime Minister Artur Rasi-zade stated that any actions aimed at settling the conflicts are significant. "Who will be crowned with laurels is not important." he said.

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