New US Ambassador Speaks to Press on Variety of Issues

YEREVAN (Interfax/RFE-RL)–John Evans–the new US ambassador to Armenia–said stability and security–economic growth–and development of democratic institutions are the main focus of US activity in South Caucasus–and Armenia has attained certain success in these areas.

Evans told a press conference in the Armenian capital on Wednesday–that certain stability and security concerns exist because the Mountainous Karabagh conflict remains unresolved. Evans stressed the conflicting parties must formulate a final solution–along with the mediating efforts of the US–Russia–and France as the co-chairmen of the OSCE Minsk Group.

He said the focus of US attention is to work on opening the Armenian-Turkish border–so as to benefit both Yerevan and Ankara.

The envoy also reaffirmed US approval of the last-minute cancellation of NATO-led military exercises which were scheduled to begin in Azerbaijan on Monday. The NATO leadership pointed to Baku’s refusal to Armenia’s participation in the maneuvers.

"We do believe that the NATO authorities made the right decision to cancel this exercise," Evans said. But he was quick to indicate that the move should not be seen as a diplomatic victory for Armenia–saying that it hurt both parties to the Mountainous Karabagh conflict.

He commended plans for Armenia to join the US "coalition of the willing" in Iraq with a small unit of non-combat troops.

"We salute Armenia for its announced intention to send a transportation unit along with de-miners and some medical personnel to Iraq."

The planned deployment–which requires parliament approval–is stirring up debate in Armenia.

Evans said Washington welcomes a public debate on the issue in Armenia.

Evans–who arrived in Armenia a month ago–is a 56-year-old career diplomat. He previously headed the Office of Russian Affairs in the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs of the US State Department.

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