Kocharian Putin Discuss Karabakh Sign Pact

MOSCOW (Reuters)–The presidents of Russia and fellow former Soviet state Armenia discussed on Tuesday how to settle the 12-year-old Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and signed a new friendship treaty.

Armenia’s ties with Moscow have been among the best of the 14 other ex-Soviet states and the new pact–dubbed a declaration of joint cooperation in the 21st century–was aimed at cementing this relationship.

Russian President Vladimir Putin was quoted by Russian news agencies as saying he welcomed talks held between Armenia and Azerbaijan over Karabakh last year and hoped for more dialogue.

But he said Russia did not have the power to impose a solution. Armenian President Robert Kocharian said he wanted Moscow’s involvement in the peace process.

“Finding a solution–and–most importantly–making it work will need the support of Russia,” he said.

Kocharian and Azeri leader Haydar Aliyev held several rounds of talks last year but the process was brought to an end in the turmoil caused by the assassination in parliament of Armenia’s prime minister and other key figures in October 1999.

“We want this difficult conflict to be solved for the good of the nations of both states,” Putin said.

Kocharian and Putin hailed the agreement they signed as a further step on the road to good relations. Russia and Armenia–both sharing a Christian tradition–have historically had good ties.

“For Armenia–Russia is not only a strong northern neighbor but a country with which there is a spiritual connection,” Kocharian said.

Sources in the Putin administration reported that after the conversation between the two presidents–talks will continue in an expanded format. Russia will be represented by Security Council Secretary Sergei Ivanov–Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov–Presidential deputy chief of staff Sergei Prikhodko and a number of ministers. As a result of the talks–the parties intend to sign a bilateral declaration.

Kocharian is also scheduled to meet the chairmen of the two houses of Russian parliament–Yegor Stroyev and Gennady Seleznyov–Tuesday.

A declaration on allied cooperation directed towards the 21st century will be signed in Moscow as a result of the talks between Russian and Armenian presidents–Itr-Tass quoted Vladimir Putin as saying.

"Armenia and Russia have always enjoyed very warm–kind and close relations," Putin stressed–adding that Armenia is Russia’s ally which is to be reflected in the allied cooperation declaration.

Kocharian in his turn noted that "Armenia’s president’s visit to Moscow has always been a great event for the country." He said it is necessary to further strengthen and develop ties between the two countries. "Russia is not just a powerful northern neighbor–but a country with which Armenia has a spiritual community," Kocharian said.

Kocharian also said that during the talks Armenian and Russian leadership had already reached agreement on a wide variety of issues.

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