Kocharian Begins Georgian Visit Optimistic on Karabakh Talks

TBILISI (Reuters–Noyan Tapan)–Armenian President Robert Kocharian expressed optimism on Tuesday about talks with Azerbaijan over disputed Karabakh and said last week’s attack on the Karabakh leader would not slow progress.

"I also am optimistic about the chances for resolution of the Karabakh conflict–but I wouldn’t want to give any time frame," Kocharian told reporters after meeting Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze.

"We must show patience and try to keep the process going on a positive track."

Azeri President Haydar Aliyev said last week that a series of recent face-to-face meetings with Kocharian to find a compromise over the territory had created hope for a solution.

Kocharian said the arrest of those allegedly behind last week’s attack on Karabakh leader Arkady Ghoukassian might even enhance the chances for peace by helping Ghoukassian to instill order.

"All of the immediate participants (in the attack) have been arrested. This can have a positive effect. Not the terrorist attack itself–but its consequences. The (Karabakh) authorities will more resolutely address the resolution of the conflict," said Kocharian.

Ghoukassian took three bullets to the legs in the gun attack and is still in a hospital in the Armenian capital Yerevan. Doctors say his condition has improved and he should make a full recovery.

While in Tbilisi–Kocharian met with his Georgian counterpart Eduard Shevardnadze. Following the meeting–both leaders expressed optimism over the results.

At a press conference–Shevardnadze told reporters that he was concerned about the peace and stability in the region and is carefully following the results of direct talks between Kocharian and Aliyev.

Shevardnadze added that during his talks with Kocharian–all issues of interest were discussed and the ground was set for further cooperation between the two countries. He added that the issue of Eurasian transportation routes was also addressed–adding that Kocharian pledged Armenia’s active participation in the realm.

In his turn–Kocharian reiterated his counterpart’s outlook on future of Armenia-Georgian relations–thanking Georgian leaders for their treatment of Armenia’s living in the former Soviet Republic.

He also lobbied for the construction of a highway between Yerevan and Tbilisi.

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