Karabakh Leader Meets With US Congressmen

YEREVAN (combined sources)–Karabakh President Arkady Ghoukasian–said on April 17–that conditions are ripe for a decisive breakthrough in the settlement of the conflict with Azerbaijan–following the recent flurry of diplomatic activity by international mediators. "Favorable conditions for the conflict settlement have now been created–and the great powers’ interest in the peaceful settlement of the conflict and in the establishment of stability in the region is quite obvious. The parties’ interests also coincide–and they are sure that the problem is impossible to solve in a military way. I think that we have a real opportunity to settle the conflict. I am optimistic," Ghoukasian told a visiting group of US Congressional aides in Stepanakert.

Ghoukasian’s remarks followed similarly upbeat statemen’s by the presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan who–earlier this month–held four-day intensive peace talks in Florida–sponsored by the US–Russian and French co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group. Azerbaijani President Heydar Aliev told reporters over the weekend that he is "very pleased" with the results of the negotiations and his subsequent meeting in the White House with President George Bush.

Though no breakthrough has been announced yet–the parties now appear to be closer to hammering out a peace deal than ever before. The mediators have said that they will draft a new peace plan on Karabakh–based on agreemen’s reached in Key West–Florida–in time for the next round of negotiations due in Geneva next June.

Official Stepanakert has repeatedly made it clear that any peace deal that might be signed by Aliev and Kocharian would need its approval.

The visit of top US politicians was organized and sponsored by the Armenian Assembly of America (AAA). During their stay–the guests were informed of the restoration works during the post-war period in Stepanakert. The guests also held a number of meetings with representatives of humanitarian organizations operating in the NKR and visited several medical establishmen’s. During a meeting with the president–the guests pointed out the serious progress in eliminating the aftermath of the war.

In his turn–Ghoukasian addressed his thanks to the US Congress for the financial assistance and moral support to the people of Karabakh. He pointed out that the states of the region are interconnected–therefore no serious economic progress is possible in any individual state. "Equal development of the whole region should be ensured. As regards to our country–due to the implementation of the current programs–Karabakh may find its worthy place in the region’s economic system," the NKR president said. According to him–a favorable atmosphere for investmen’s was created: relevant legislation and government guarantees are the achievemen’s the NKR has gained during the last few years.

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