Austrian Foreign Minister Meets Armenian Leaders

YEREVAN (Noyan Tapan)–Vice-Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Austria Wolfgang Schuessel paid a one-day visit to Armenia Wednesday. Talking to journalists at the Zvartnots airport before leaving Yerevan–Schuessel said his visit was "successful."

He mentioned his meetings with Armenian President Robert Kocharian–Prime Minister Vazgen Sargssian–and Speaker of the Armenian National Assembly Karen Demirchian. During the visit he also paid homage to the memory of Catholicos of All Armenia’s Karekin I.

The Austrian minister reported that during his meetings with the Armenian leaders the sides discussed issues related to Austria’s upcoming position as OSCE chairman on January 1–2000 and the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement between Armenia and the European Union. Schuessel reported that the Austrian side is currently preparing relevant documen’s for initiating a dialogue with Armenia in political and economic spheres.

"I highly appreciate Armenia’s contribution to the development of the political dialogue between the two countries. Austria expects Armenia to contribute to the stability in the region," Schuessel said.

Addressing the Karabakh settlement–Schuessel pointed out that no progress can be observed at the official level. "But the unofficial meeting of the Armenian and Azerbaijani presidents was very useful–and we–on our part–highly promote such informal contacts," Schuessel said.

"I think that the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement between the European Union and Armenia is a very important document–as it provides the legal underpinnings for establishing common standards as well as for initiating political and economic dialogue," Schuessel said. "It is a kind of frame into which we can put contents. Austria is interested in cooperating with Armenia and other countries in the region."

Schuessel reminded the reporters about the visit of a delegation of Austrian businessmen to Armenia in May. However–he noted that the investmen’s are not yet significant.

"Currently we are working on an agreement to abolishing double taxation–which will encourage an influx of Austrian investmen’s in Armenia. We are also conducting negotiations with Armenian Airlines on opening an Austrian Airlines office in Armenia. I think that the opening of two new airflights between Yerevan and Vienna will encourage the development of not only political and economic ties–but also cultural," Schuessel said.

During a meeting with President Kocharian earlier that day–Schuessel handed over a message from the Austrian president. During the meeting Kocharian addressed the Armenia-European Union relations–the Karabakh settlement and other regional problems.

The president said that taking the European direction is a major priority in Armenia’s foreign policy; Armenia is willing to expand and develop its relations both with the European Union and its member-countries.

"Armenia is aspiring to adopt European values. Our goal is to build a society based on the European model and become a full member of the European family," the president said.

Being located in a region where the interests of different states historically clash–Armenia is striving to make proper decisions without aggravating the situation. He added that in this complicated and unstable region Armenia managed to become the most stable and organized country.

President Kocharian also presented Armenia’s position on the Karabakh settlement.

His latest meeting with Azeri President Haydar Aliyev in Washington was hope-inspiring–he said. Wolfgang Schuessel stressed that the Karabakh settlement is still one of the main lines of OSCE’s policy and expressed optimism that during Austria’s chairmanship of the OSCE great progress will be achieved in finding a variant of settlement of the conflict which will be acceptable to all the conflicting parties.

Schuessel also met with Speaker of the Armenian National Assembly Karen Demirchian. Demirchian pointed out that Armenia is interested in establishing mutually advantageous cooperation and friendly relations with Austria.

Briefing Schuessel on the political situation in Armenia–Demirchian described it as stable.

He noted that the recent parliamentary elections were confirmed by the international observers as being free and fair. However–Demirchian pointed out the need for the improvement of the Electoral Law in order to meet international standards.

The Austrian foreign minister stressed the need for developing Armenian-Austrian relations–expanding economic cooperation and developing and implementing joint projects.

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