President’s US France Visit Produce A Success

YEREVAN (Noyan Tapan)–The main stress of President Robert Kocharian’s recent visits to the United States and France was laid on the possibilities of promoting economic cooperation. Kocharian’s spokesman Vahe Gabrielian quoted the heads of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank as expressing satisfaction with the situation getting stable in Armenia. The heads of the two prestigious financial organizations hailed the initial steps of the Armenian authorities directed against corruption and expressed their readiness to continue cooperation with Armenia. They also said they expected the Armenian Government to fulfill its budget commitmen’s.

The sides agreed that in the future the IMF and WB funds will be primarily directed at the implementation of investment programs–and the earlier reached agreemen’s–that is the agreed size of allocations–will be respected nonetheless.

Vahe Gabrielian was pleased to note that Armenia is regaining its confidence in international financial institutions and foreign countries.

To cite examples for his statement–Gabrielian referred to the fact that the WB Multilateral International Guarantees Agency will provide guarantees for Armenia’s share in the Black Sea Economic Cooperation Bank. The World Bank has also reaffirmed its intention to arrange a business forum to attract investmen’s to Armenia.

The presidential press secretary singled out Kocharian’s meeting with the President of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC)–which resulted in the OPIC’s affirming its position to participate in the current economic processes in Armenia.

Gabrielian described as Kocharian’s meeting with Kirk Krikorian–an American businessman of Armenian origin–as "exceedingly important." Krikorian allocated $100 million for the implementation of credit programs in Armenia and as much for road construction and earthquake zone rehabilitation projects. However–the allocation of the money mean for road construction projects was slowed down because of some technical difficulties related to US legislation.

During Kocharian’s stay in the US this problem was solved–and in the near future millions of dollars will be allocated for the construction and reconstruction of several sections of the Yerevan-Tbilisi road on the Armenian side.

From these funds Krikorian also allocated a large sum for the earthquake zone. These funds as well as the funds foreseen under agreemen’s reached by Kocharian in the US Congress make a pretty solid sum that make one feel optimistic about the possibility of relieving the problem of construction of houses–schools and hospitals in the earthquake zone in the near future. Gabrielian reported that about 20 million dollars of the US aid to Armenia in 2001 will be earmarked for the disaster zone.

During a meeting with the US Trade Representative–the sides discussed the process of Armenia’s membership in the World Trade Organization. The Armenian president thinks that the process is following its normal course and the issue is most likely to be solved in the near future. The US Trade Representative expressed a hope that Armenia will become a member of the WTO this year.

The issue of broadening economic cooperation and promoting US and French investmen’s in Armenia was the main subject of discussion during Kocharian’s meetings with these countries’ leaders. The president–in particular–expressed satisfaction with the work of the US-Armenian task force. The task force will finally identify the areas for cooperation soon and will gather for its second meeting in Washington in September.

During Kocharian’s meetings with the US and French presidents–the sides discussed ways of boosting bilateral relations and invigorating economic cooperation. Kocharian discussed issues with French President Jacques Chirac in the context of Armenia-EU relations–since France took over the EU rotating chairmanship on July 1. At the invitation of the French President–Kocharian will pay an official visit to France in February 2001. For his part–Jacques Chirac accepted Kocharian’s invitation to visit Armenia.

Kocharian discussed the Karabakh conflict resolution as well as other issues of regional concern with the presidents of the US and France. Vahe Gabrielian emphasized that the three co-chairing countries attach importance to direct meetings and are willing to support any decision agreed upon by all the parties to the conflict.

While in France–the president of Armenia awarded renowned French singer of Armenian descent Charles Aznavour with a St. Mesrop Mashtots Order–which was awarded to him two years ago.

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