Sarkisian Calls for Greater Chinese Role in Caucasus

YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–President Serzh Sarkisian spoke of his admiration for China’s economic reforms and called for greater Chinese presence in the South Caucasus as he prepared to fly to Beijing for Friday’s opening ceremony of the 2008 Olympic Games.

"We are sincerely interested in the expansion of China’s presence in the region, which will undoubtedly have a positive impact on the entire South Caucasus," Sarkisian said in an interview with the official Chinese Xinhua news agency the transcript of which was released by his office on Thursday.

"As a permanent member of the UN Security Council, China plays a leading role in international politics," he said. "China is a responsible member of the international community, and we feel its impartial and balanced position on many issues of international and regional significance."

Sarkisian noted "the absence of any disputes" in the Chinese-Armenian relationship and said the two nations have very similar stances on "the main regional and international issues."

Armenian leaders have previously praised Beijing for its perceived neutrality in the
unresolved Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Last March, China declined to vote for an Azeri drafted UN General Assembly resolution that demanded an "immediate, complete and unconditional withdrawal of Armenian forces" from occupied Azerbaijani lands.

Successive Armenian governmen’s, for their part, have voiced unequivocal support for the restoration of Chinese control over Taiwan. Former President Robert Kocharian reaffirmed that in a joint declaration with China’s President Hu Jintao signed during a 2004 state visit to Beijing.

"Armenia is in awe of reforms implemented by the leaders of the People’s Republic of China and aimed at development, modernization and the establishment of a harmonious socialist society," Sarkisian told Xinhua.

The Armenian leader described as "unforgettable" his last trip to China, which he made in 2001 in his capacity as defense minister. "I have been closely following China’s development and rejoicing in the achievemen’s of the hard-working and peace-loving Chinese people," he said.


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