Armenian Defense Minister Meets Deputy Commander of US Armed Forces

YEREVAN (Armenpress–Noyan Tapan)–Armenia’s Defense Minister Serge Sargsian received yesterday General Carlton Fulford–the Deputy Commander of US Troops in Europe–who arrived in Yerevan March 21 within the 2001 program of Armenia-US Military Contacts.

The Armenian Defense Ministry told reporters that through the course of the meeting–the two men discussed a number of issues connected with the military contacts between Armenia and the US. They pointed out the importance of effective cooperation in the field of humanitarian mine clearing–struggle against proliferation of weapons of mass destruction–as well as cooperation possibilities in other fields. The sides also exchanged views on the problems of regional security and ways of resolving the Karabakh conflict.

"We hope that a variant of resolving the Karabakh peacefully will be found soon," said General Fulford. The general emphasized that if the conflict is settled–American military forces will get an opportunity to unfold more active work in the region–which has been impossible so far because of the restrictions imposed by the US Congress. As an example of such activities–Fulford mentioned the efforts of the military department of the US toward de-mining conflict zones.

According to the general–the US military forces are ready to assume the peace-making mission in the region without competing with the Russia’s–but rather cooperating with them–as it is being done in Kosovo. Fulford expressed confidence that the presence of observers will enable the parties involved in the conflict–to specify their expectations from the OSCE and other international organizations as far as possible.

Asked to voice the US attitude toward the possible assistance of Turkey to Azerbaijan in case of resumed hostilities in Karabakh–Gen. Fulford expressed the opinion that a peaceful settlement of the conflict meets the national interests of Turkey. The United States is seeking durable cooperation in the region–and that is why it continues to work with the leaders of both Armenia and Turkey toward resolving the conflict and promoting security–he said.

The general gave assurance–that in its military actions–the US is always guided by international laws as well as "acceptable human rights protection standards." General Fulford–who was one of those in charge of the "Desert Shield" and the "Desert Storm" operations in 1991-92–said before starting military operations–he always thought about the damage inflicted on the environment.

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