Sestanovich Discusses Armenia Turkey Relations

YEREVAN (Noyan Tapan)–Armenian President Robert Kocharian held a meeting on January 21 with a delegation led by the US Secretary of State’s Special Advisor for CIS Countries–Ambassador Stephen Sestanovich. The delegation included OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairman Carey Cavanaugh and US Ambassador to Armenia Michael Lemmon.

The discussions focused on the peaceful settlement of the Karabakh conflict and the development of peaceful processes. Sestanovich pointed out his country’s willingness to support efforts aimed at settling the conflict.

The sides also discussed prospects for the development of bilateral relations–exchanged views on regional cooperation and security.

"The opening of Armenian-Turkish borders will be practically impossible until the existing problems between Armenia and Azerbaijan are not resolved," Sestanovich said Saturday at the end of his visit to Armenia.

Stressing the importance of opening borders in terms of stimulating trade and cooperation–Sestanovich expressed satisfaction with both countries showing willingness and interest in this regard.

The group also held meetings with Armenia’s prime minister–foreign minister and parliament speaker. Sestanovich reiterated that the OSCE Minsk Group was working on new peace initiatives for Karabakh to focus on more direct talks between presidents Kocharian and Aliyev. Sestanovich found it difficult to say when the proposals would be ready–but he noted that the successful outcome of the work largely depended on some other objective reasons.

Sestanovich expressed satisfaction with the fact that the presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan regarded as important their upcoming meetings in Moscow and Davos–which is–indeed–critical to boosting the process.

Speaking of US-Armenian relations–Sestanovich mentioned that efforts were being made to set up an American-Armenian working group. US coordinator Bill Taylor is expected to arrive in Armenia this week to ratify the declaration on US-Armenian cooperation.

The group is supposed to seek avenues to encourage investmen’s in Armenia and to clear the way for bilateral cooperation. Sestanovich believes that the group’s activities will be of use in stimulating Armenia’s economic growth. Referring to the creation of a regional system–the US official said that regional cooperation was possible through a security system.

The US official declined to comment on Armenia’s domestic political situation. He referred to the interest of the US and Armenia in further developing bilateral cooperation.

Sestanovich told Aram Sargsyan in their meeting that during his previous visit he met with Vazgen Sargsyan to discuss issues of ensuring stability in the region. The US official expressed his government’s intention to continue this process and readiness to render every possible assistance to Armenia. During the Kocharian-Aliyev meeting in Istanbul both presidents expressed willingness to make every effort to find a way out of the seemingly deadlocked situation that would be of benefit to all sides. Addressing Armenia’s relations with Turkey–Sestanovich informed the Armenian prime minister that President of Turkey Suleyman Demirel had shown interest in an early achievement of stability in the region and settlement of relations with Armenia.

Aram Sargsyan expressed Armenia’s interest in an early and effective solution to the Karabakh conflict. Speaking of economic ties with Turkey–Sargsyan emphasized that the opening of roads might become a new economic incentive. He hoped for the railroad linking Armenia with Turkey to start operating with certain periodicity soon.

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