NATO Leader Says Events of 1915 Must be Called ‘Genocide’

YEREVAN (Armenpress–Noyan Tapan)–Visiting chairman of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly Rafael Estrella said Wednesday that while he is not a lawyer–but as a politician he believes that the events of 1915 should be characterized as "Genocide."

In his remarks–Estrella also added that the NATO Parliamentary Assembly was willing to create a beneficial climate for the development of Turkish-Armenian relations.

On Tuesday–Estrella and his delegation visited the Dzidzernagapert Armenian Genocide monument and laid a wreath at the memorial.

Armenia’s President Robert Kocharian–while meeting with Estrella Wednesday–said Armenia’s cooperation with NATO within the framework of the "Partnership for Peace" Program and this interaction will expand and grow.

According to the presidential press service–Kocharian emphasized the importance of the observer status being given to Armenia–as well as the importance of the country’s bid for associated membership–considering it a considerable achievement in terms of integration into European structures.

Chairman Estrella touched upon Russian-NATO relations and the changes within the system of European security–stressing that they are aimed at strengthening peace and stability in the entire world.

During his May 14 meeting with the NATO delegation Estrella–Armenian Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Ruben Shugarian welcomed Armenia’s being granted status of an observer in the Assembly–as well as the prospects of becoming an associated member.

Ruben Shugarian presented Armenia’s participation in the "Partnership for Peace" program–pointing out that this program is one of the paths of integration into European structures.

The deputy foreign minister also presented the present state of the process of the Karabakh settlement–Armenia’s relations with neighboring countries–as well as Russia and the United States. He especially emphasized that Armenia is for stimulating regional cooperation. He mentioned that after the September 11 events–the countries in the region are participating in the anti-terrorism struggle–which–in its turn–must help to overcome the differences and settle conflicts.

Estrella emphasized the necessity for the Parliamentary Assembly to pursue a balanced policy towards the countries of the region. He invited Armenia’s representatives to take part in a seminar on regional security and stability issues held in Tbilisi in September. He added that Armenia’s application for an associated membership in the NATO Parliamentary Assembly will be discussed during the plenary meeting to be held in Sofia from May 24 to 28.

After gaining independence–Armenia has remained true to European standards and the principle of democracy–Prime Minister Andranik Margarian said at his meeting Wednesday with Estrella. The prime minister expressed optimism that the visit of Estrella will activate the development of Armenia’s relations with the European family.

According to the premier–further development of relations between Armenia and neighboring countries are conditional on the consolidation of security and stability in the region. Armenia is actively cooperating both within the framework of the CIS Collective Security Treaty and the NATO "Partnership for Peace" program. From this viewpoint–Armenia’s application for associated membership in NATO Parliamentary Assembly will create additional opportunities for Armenia’s integration with European countries for peaceful settlement of conflicts.

Pointing out that the security of Europe depends on the Stability in the South Caucasus to a great degree–the NATO PA chairman gave assurances that the European countries are interested in achieving peace through joint efforts in the region. According to him–the role and the task of the Assembly is not the settlement of conflicts but joint efforts of Parliamentary forces may contribute to the development of approaches and a common idea concerning the problem of security and the formation of a favorable atmosphere for the peaceful settlement of conflicts.

Premier Margarian gave assurances that Armenia is ready to contribute to all the international initiatives which will be directed at stimulating political and economic relations–strengthening stability and security in the region.

Chairman Estrella–who leads a NATO delegation on a two-day visit to Armenia–also met with Armenian Defense Minister Serge Sarkisian. Sarkisian briefed the NATO officials on the process of reforming the Armenian armed forces and Armenia’s relationship with its immediate neighbors.

The NATO delegation met also with Catholicos of Armenia’s Karekin II.

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