YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–Howard Dean–a former US presidential hopeful who now heads the Democratic National Committee–began a two-day visit Armenia on Friday–meeting with President Robert Kocharian and other senior officials.
Official Armenian sources said his talks with President Robert Kocharian–parliament speaker Artur Baghdasarian and Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian focused on the current state of US-Armenian relations–the situation in the South Caucasus and international efforts to resolve the Karabagh conflict. Armenia’s strained relations with Turkey–a key US ally–were also on the agenda–they said.
Kocharian was quoted by his press service as welcoming the "dynamic" development of US-Armenian ties and commending the United States for its "weighty contribution" to economic reforms implemented in Armenia. Baghdasarian–for his part–hailed Washington’s "great mission to strengthen democracy around the world."
Dean told Baghdasarian and leaders of the Armenian parliament factions that "development of democracy is the only possibility of progress in Armenia" and that the US has always been ready to support the process. A resolution of the Karabagh conflict and a normalization of Turkish-Armenian relations are also important for the country’s development–he said.
Dean was also reported to note the Democratic Party’s "strong ties" with the Armenian-American community–saying that it will continue to support pro-Armenian resolutions in Congress. He met on Friday with US Ambassador to Armenia John Evans and is due to visit the Genocide Memorial in Yerevan on Saturday.