France Proposes to Create Common Market in Caucasus

BAKU (Itar-Tass)–Chairman of France’s Senate Christian Poncelet proposed to create a common market in Transcaucasia similar to the market which has been operating in West Europe for decades.

Poncelet–who is in Baku on a brief official visit–put forth this initiative during his meeting with Azeri President Haydar Aliyev.

Poncelet also called for developing multifaceted relations between Transcaucasian countries–adding that such cooperation facilitates the social and economic development and strengthen their own independence.

Among the most important goals–he listed joint regional economic projects which will attract foreign investors to Transcaucasia. Poncelet considers integration of Transcaucasian countries as the beginning of their unification with Europe.

To this end–Aliyev stressed the need to establish peace and stability in the region. He noted that there are no problems between Azerbaijan and Georgia–and Georgia and Armenia–adding that "his country is trying to settle the Armenian-Azeri conflict because of Nagorno-Karabakh both within the framework of the OSCE Minsk Group and by direct talks between the heads of state."

Speaking about his recent talks with Armenian President Robert Kocharian–Aliyev said that "such meetings should be continued."

Azerbaijan is doing its best to settle the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict by peaceful means and welcomed the efforts taken by the co-chairmen of the Minsk Group – Russia–the United States and France–the president said.

On bilateral relations–Aliyev and Poncelet favored their further expansion in all directions. Azerbaijan Foreign Minister Tofik Zulfugarov described these relations as "strategic partnership".

The foreign minister stressed that Azerbaijan believes France supports its drive for joining the Council of Europe and other continental structures.

Earlier in the day–Azeri parliament chairman Murtuz Aleskerov held talks with Poncelet.

After the talks–Aleskerov said he will take part in a meeting of heads of parliament of Trans-Caucasian countries to be held in Paris in September.

Poncelet said that France attaches great significance to the development of relations with Trans-Caucasian countries.

Aleskerov said that "the Paris meeting will be an important step toward expanding cooperation between Trans-Caucasian states and joining efforts to settle regional conflicts."

Azerbaijan believes that France–which is co-chairman in the OSCE Minsk Group together with Russia and the United States–will do everything possible to solve the Nagorno-Karabakh problem as soon as possible.

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