Ambassador Praises US Armenia Relations

YEREVAN (Noyan-Tapan/Yerkir/RFE/RL)–During a press conference marking the first anniversary of his diplomatic mission in Armenia–US Ambassador to Armenia John Ordway announced that Armenian-American relations have seriously developed during the past year.

He said that trade and economic relations between the two countries have expanded–as have relations aimed at ensuring security in the region–assistance in improving the business environment–and efforts to build democracy in Armenia.

His mission to Armenia he said was to "support the formation and development of Armenian statehood," citing the joint struggle against crime–the housing certificate program in the earthquake zone as greatest achievemen’s.

Ordway emphasized that as long as there are problems with corruption in Armenia–investmen’s would not increase; he stated that 2002 was a period of active discussion about Armenia’s struggle against corruption; now it is time to take serious steps to solve the problem–he added.

ORDWAY DISMISSES AZERI CONCERNS

Speaking about reports from Baku harshly criticizing French officials for meeting with the president of the Nagorno-Karabakh republic Arkady Ghoukassian during his visit to Paris this week–Ordway dismissed the concerns as groundless. "I have also had meetings with Arkady Ghoukassian. Ghoukassian’s meetings with OSCE Minsk Group Co-chair Perina are not something new," said Ordway–and stated that these meetings are the basis of the Karabakh conflict regulation.

The charge d’affaires at the French embassy in Azerbaijan–Thibault Fourriere–was summoned to a meeting with Deputy Foreign Minister Khalaf Khalafov and handed a note of protest.

"The deputy minister informed the French side that such meetings in future would be unacceptable," the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

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