Defense Secretary Rumsfeld Visit Seen as Important for Armenia

YEREVAN (Noyan Tapan–Armenpress)–A delegation led by US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld will arrive in Armenia on Saturday. Rumsfeld will begin his trip to the South Caucasus and Central Asia in Baku on Friday. In Baku–the US Defense Secretary will meet with Azeri President Hayder Aliyev and Azeri Defense Minster Safar Abiyev and will discuss joint military efforts in the war against terrorism.

They will also discuss the US’ use of the Azerbaijan airport in its strikes against terrorists in Afghanistan. Azerbaijan’s former presidential advisor Vafa Guluzade–told Azeri officials to inform the Americans that Armenia’s foreign policy is based on expansionism. Koulouzadeh stressed the need to also tell the US official that the it is wrong that the Azeri and Armenian presidents are being forced to reach a quick solution to the Karabakh conflict. "Since no agreemen’s have been reached thus far between the two presidents–the territory of Karabakh must be returned to Azerbaijan under UN mandates," said Koulouzadeh. He continued to say that he is in favor of Azeri expansion–and for the US–Azerbaijan is the most important nation in the region–followed by Georgia. " And the Armenian army is a reactionary army allied with Iran and Russia," concluded Guluzade.

The Armenian government’s Public Relations department reported that Rumsfeld is going to meet with Secretary of the President’s National Security Council–Armenian Defense Minister Serge Sarkissian–when he arrives in Armenia on Saturday. The sides will discuss Armenia’s participation in the struggle against international terrorism–as well as military assistance the US will give to Armenia in 2002. They will also discuss expanding and working out programs of Armenian-American military cooperation.

Rumsfeld is expected to meet with President Robert Kocharian during his visit to Armenia. Rumsfeld will visit Yerevan from Baku–later–he will leave for Tbilisi.

Meanwhile–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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