US Assistant Secretary of State Visits Armenia

YEREVAN (RFE/RL/Armenpress)–On the last leg of his regional tour–US Deputy Secretary of State Daniel Fried met Thursday with Armenia’s President Robert Kocharian–Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian–and Defense Minister Serge Sargsian.

Fried–who also visited Azerbaijan and Georgia–said the goal of his trip was to study the situation in the region after the Rambouillet meeting between the presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan–as well as to discuss a number of issues pertaining to the future of the region–including energy security.

Steven Mann–OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chair from the United States–accompanied the US deputy secretary of state to Yerevan and said: "It is a difficult fact that we did not move ahead at Rambouillet. But the two countries’ presidents are willing to move forward."

Fried says he believes there is still an opportunity for Armenia and Azerbaijan to make a breakthrough in the Karabagh settlement process. He said he is convinced that negotiations can be continued despite the lack of progress at the latest round of high-level talks at Rambouillet.

"Both governmen’s express their countries’ interests and take the Karabagh settlement process seriously," Fried said–sharing with the media his impressions of the meetings with officials in Baku and Yerevan.

He added that the settlement of the conflict will stimulate the economic progress of the region.

Fried also addressed energy issues at a news conference in Yerevan. He said the US would not object to the Armenian government’s ambitious plans to build a new nuclear power station replacing the Medzamor plant–which is due to be decommissioned by 2016.

Fried said after recent explosions in the pipeline that ships Russian gas to the South Caucasus–the US and Europe have been paying greater attention to the energy situation in the region and the need to cut its heavy dependence on Russian fuel supplies.

He said Armenia’s desire to build a new nuclear power plant will be discussed in Washington.

During his trip–Fried also denied media allegations that US ambassador to Armenia–John Evans–would be recalled soon–allegedly for acknowledging publicly last year that 1915 massacres of Armenia’s in the Ottoman Empire was genocide.

"Ambassador Evans enjoys the confidence of the State Department and will continue to serve as US ambassador to Armenia," he said.

Ambassador Evans who was also present at the news conference reiterated what he had said earlier: "I serve at the pleasure of US president."

Fried said the US Government is also interested in the democratic situation in Armenia.

The American diplomats left Yerevan for Istanbul later on Thursday to attend a meeting of the Minsk Group cochairmen due to be held there.

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