Armenian FM Spells out Vision for 2006

YEREVAN (Combined Sources)–Outlining Armenia’s 2005 foreign policy activity–Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian noted developmen’s and revealed aspirations for 2006–which include strengthening ties with European institutions and the United States. He also discussed Turkey’s responsibilities as it seeks membership into the European Union (EU).

EU-Armenia

Cementing relations with the EU remains a foreign policy priority–he said–as Armenia continues talks with the EU to detail its Action Plan for Cooperation with the European body in February.

"The process will set the stage for integration through rapprochement," he said–noting the importance of Armenia meeting European standards of human rights protection–rule of law–and in political and economic reforms.

He also said the EU remains Armenia’s major trade partner–citing a 55 percent trade increase between Armenia and EU that stood at $756 million for the past 11 months in 2005.

US-Armenia

In 2006–the Foreign Minister said that Armenia will seek to shift its relations with the US from receiving assistance to implementing joint programs. Oskanian said Armenia hopes that by reforming its investment legislation–it will attract increased investment from the US. This would include the signing of an agreement with US to avoid double taxation and expand the list of products Armenia exports to US.

He said 2005 brought political–trade-economic–and military development between the two countries. He said the most important achievement was the US adoption of Armenia’s proposal to the "Millennium Challenges" Corporation that will provide $235.65 million to implement infrastructure improvement programs in rural areas–promoting poverty reduction.

He also noted continued high levels of US humanitarian and technical support to Armenia–as well as Congressional allocation of $75 million to Armenia and $3 million to Mountainous Karabagh. In its military support to Armenia–US Congress passed legislation to maintain parity in providing military aid to Armenia and Azerbaijan.

Turkey

Turkey must "come to terms with its own history," Oskanian said–as it seeks membership in the EU. "The necessity of the recognition of the Armenian genocide is increasing more in the process of Turkey’s membership to EU."

He cited a September 28–2005 European Commission report clearly stressing that "as a pre-condition for Turkey’s full membership to EU Turkey must recognize the fact of the Armenian genocide."

He said that huge strides in international recognition of the Armenian genocide in 2005–have taken the issue to a different level even in Turkey–where it is no longer a "taboo" subject.

He stressed–however–that 2005 brought no positive changes in Armenia-Turkey relations–attributing the stalemate to Turkey’s policy of setting preconditions–namely–that Armenia drop its campaign to gain international recognition of the Armenian genocide and the other involving the Karabagh conflict.

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