US Defense Secretary Visit Important Foreign Minister Says

YEREVAN (Armenpress)–Armenian Foreign Affairs Minister Vartan Oskanian said on Tuesday that the arrival of US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to Yerevan later this week will seal a new initiative designed to increase military cooperation between the two countries.

"The visit is very important and we believe that a wide range of issues will be discussed," he said–however–he refused to elaborate.

Oskanian said earlier that he believed that bringing the US and Russia closer together would help ease tensions in the south Caucasus–because it allows the two sides to act as partners rather than rivals.

US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld will arrive in Armenia on Saturday as part of a regional tour.

Rumsfeld is scheduled to meet with president Robert Kocharian and other top officials.

Armenia–like its immediate neighbors Georgia and Azerbaijan granted the US military use of their air space for the war in Afghanistan–providing American warplanes bases in Europe and Eastern Turkey with a corridor to Central Asia.

Speaking to reporters on Tuesday the US ambassador to Yerevan–John Ordway said his country would do everything to prevent a crisis in the negotiation process over the Karabakh peace process.

"Both sides will have to compromise to have the conflict finally resolved," he said. According to him–the coming year will be more productive in establishing a peaceful resolution to the decade-long conflict because of the noticeable rapprochement between Russia and the US.

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