Kocharian Briefs Parliament on Key West Talks

YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–President Robert Kocharian met with representatives of Armenia’s leading political parties represented in the parliament on April 19–to brief them on the results of the recent peace talks over Nagorno-Karabakh.

"The meeting did not leave me with the impression that there are alarming developmen’s for the Armenian side," the leader the Orinats Yerkir party–Artur Baghdasarian–told reporters in Yerevan. Another participant quoted Kocharian as telling the country’s top politicians that Armenia and the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic are in a "favorable position" at the present stage of the peace process and will not be under pressure to make unacceptable concessions to Azerbaijan.

Speaking to journalists earlier in the day–the Armenian leader refused to divulge more details of the negotiations held earlier this month in Florida under the sponsorship of the United States–Russia and France. He also said that the mediators’ decision to inform neighboring Iran about further developmen’s in the Karabakh peace process was made at his insistence. But he said that will not involve any change in the format of the long-running international efforts to end the Karabakh dispute.

Kocharian also spoke about the Armenian economy–which he feels is ready to take a major upswing this year–having expanded in the first quarter at the highest rate in a decade. Official data unveiled by Kocharian at the cabinet meeting show Armenia’s GDP up 12 percent from the same period last year. A 20 percent rise in industrial output–helped by nearly 30 percent surge in exports–accounted for a large part of the gain. The results of the first quarter are well above the government’s 6 percent minimum growth target for the entire year.

Despite five years of single-digit growth–Armenia is still reeling from the economic slump of the early 1990s that saw its GDP shrink by half. Economists say that a tangible improvement in low living standards requires several more years of growth at the rate of at lest 10 percent.

Kocharian told ministers that this year "may become decisive for the Armenian economy if the current trends continue."

"All this is encouraging," Kocharian told reporters after the weekly cabinet session. "We must work actively and consistently to be able to keep up the pace for the rest of the year."

Kocharian also acknowledged a "very serious" link between Armenia’s chances of economic recovery and the resolution of Karabakh conflict- an apparent shift in the position he held as recently as three years ago. "The settlement of the Karabakh conflict would give a quite strong boost to economic development," he said.

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