US Says Committed to Karabakh Peace Talks

YEREVAN (Armenpress)–The United States is committed to continued negotiations for a mutually acceptable peace formula for the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict within the frameworks of the OSCE Minsk Group, charge d’affaires in Armenia Joseph Pennington said Monday at a press conference.
"Serious progress has been registered and we are hopeful that this progress will lead to a [peace] agreement," he said.
The Minsk Group co-chairs will pay another visit to the region in mid-January to learn the reaction of Armenian and Azeri leaderships to a package of their proposals on basic principles for the peaceful settlement of the conflict.
The package was handed to Armenian and Azeri foreign ministers in Madrid in late November.
The United States government would also like Armenia and Turkey to step up the dialogue that would lead to normalization of ties between the two nations, establishment of diplomatic relations and opening of their sealed borders, Penington added.
The U.S. diplomat said that dialogue would benefit not only Turkey and Armenia, but the entire region.
"We have called on Turkey’s and Armenia’s governmen’s to move in this direction,’ he said.
He also said the U.S. government has clearly asked the government in Ankara to abolish article 301 of its penal code, which is used by the authorities to persecute and prosecute prominent voices for alleged denigration of "Turkishness."
Before moving to Armenia Joseph Pennington had served the U.S. embassy in Ankara for 4 years. He said he hopes that the experience he has gained in the region will help him to be as useful as possible for promoting Armenian-American partnership.
Penington also said that he hopes Armenia will close its nuclear power plant at Metsamor as soon as possible. "We certainly understand the Armenian government’s argumen’s that it can not shut the pant without securing an alternative energy generating facility."
The U.S. diplomat signed a statement of cooperation on the issue with Armenian Energy minister Armen Movsisyan in November 21. Under the statement, the two parties will cooperate in developing the planning studies for a preliminary Environmental Impact Assessment and Feasibility Study for a new nuclear power generation unit in Armenia.
Commenting on the document, Pennington said this is an initial planning study, one among numerous future studies that will be necessary to establish the basis for the government of Armenia’s decision to proceed with the construction of a new nuclear power unit.
The results of these studies will be used by the Armenian government to choose the best technical solutions and project logistics, he added. They will also serve as a basis for negotiations with potential suppliers and international financing institutions.
Penington also announced that the White House will soon nominate a new ambassador to Armenia.
"We believe strongly that the U.S. must have its ambassador to Armenia and we think the Armenian government shares this opinion as well," he said. "We hope that the designate will get the approval of the Senate."
The previous U.S. Ambassador to Armenia, John Evans, was recalled for publicly using the word genocide to describe the mass killings of Armenia’s in the Ottoman Turkey. He was to be replaced by Richard Hoagland.
President Bush recalled Hoagland’s candidacy earlier this year following a senatorial hold placed by Robert Menendez (D-NJ) for the ambassador designate’s denial of the Armenian Genocide during confirmation hearings.

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