Sarkisian Meets EU, NATO Chiefs

Nato Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer with Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian

YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–President Serzh Sarkisian met with high-ranking officials from the European Union and NATO in Brussels on Wednesday, reaffirming his pledges to strengthen Armenia’s ties with both Western structures.

Sarkisian was quoted by his press office as describing cooperation with NATO as “an integral part of Armenia’s security” during talks with the alliance’s secretary-general, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer.

“The parties highly evaluated the current level of the Armenia-NATO partnership and expressed their satisfaction with the ongoing implementation of [Armenia’s] Individual Partnership Action Plan,” read a statement issued by the office. It said Sarkisian and de Hoop Scheffer described as “positive” a recent NATO-led military exercise held in Armenia.

The exercise involving about a thousand troops from 17 nations came on the heels of neighboring Georgia’s brief but devastating war with Russia, Armenia’s key ally. In a September 4 speech, Sarkisian said Yerevan will deepen its “friendly partnership” with the West despite the latter’s heightened tensions with Moscow. Five days later he formed an inter-agency government commission tasked with coordinating Armenia’s growing ties with NATO and the EU.

Armenia’s participation in the EU’s European Neighborhood Policy framework was high on the agenda of Sarkisian’s separate talks with Javier Solana, the EU foreign policy chief. During talks with Solana, Sarkisian described Armenia’s relations with the EU as “one of the most important points” on Armenia’s foreign policy agenda.

Sarkisian also met with the EU’s Foreign Relations Commissioner, Benita Ferrero-Valdner, who discussed with the Armenian president the EU’s various assistance programs to Armenia within the framework of the EU’s new Eastern Neighborhood program.

He also discussed with Solana and de Hoop Scheffer the recent thaw in Turkish-Armenian relations and the latest developmen’s in the Nagorno-Karabakh peace process.

The Armenian leader arrived in Brussels from Paris where he met on Tuesday with French President Nicolas Sarkozy, Prime Minister Francois Fillon and other senior officials. “The president of France expressed support for diplomatic efforts to settle the [Karabakh] conflict and the ongoing Turkish-Armenian political dialogue,” Sarkisian’s office said.

France has been closely involved in Armenian-Azerbaijani peace talks as one of the three co-chairs of the Minsk Group of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

Sarkisian also held a town hall meeting Wednesday with the Armenian community in Belgium.

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