YEREVAN (Noyan Tapan)–The development of the TRACECA transport corridor can become an instrument for solving political problems in the South Caucasus–Executive for the TRACECA project of the European Commission Daniel Strobants said. The European Commission is trying to work out the concept of regional cooperation–he added. According to Strobants–the European Union is interested in Armenia’s more active participation in the TRACECA project. Major attention has until recently been paid to Georgian and Azerbaijani participation in the project.
The European Commission is ready to finance the restoration of the blocked Baku-Nahijevan railroad. It was a year ago that Armenia and Azerbaijan were urged to put the railroad into operation. The European Commission believes that the restoration of the railroad will be a step towards the restoration of confidence between the two countries. The recent meeting of the Armenian and Azeri presidents on the border promotes a solution to the problem. Both the European Union and the US–as well as a number of international organizations support the restoration.
The European Union is unwilling to make an assessment of the political situation–and the European Commission believes that this issue should be considered outside the political framework and urges Yerevan and Baku to display goodwill and strive to cooperation.
Strobants reported that the next meeting of the representatives of the countries that signed the Transport Agreement is to be held in Tbilisi early next year. The six countries that ratified the Agreement are supposed to allocate the bulk of funds.
Eleven countries are sponsored under the TRACECA project: three Transcaucasian countries–five countries of Central Asia–Ukraine–Moldova and Mongolia. Besides the beneficiaries–Turkey–Hungary and Bulgaria also signed the Agreement. The European Commission also suggests procuring funds for Turkey–Russia–and–later on–Kazakhstan and China.
Strobants reported that the European Commission will allocate 75 million euro under the project. At present–a tender was announced for the implementation of the main 15 million euro project of establishing fiber-optic communication between the Black and Caspian seas. The contract for the project is to be signed by the end of 1999; the project will be launched in 2000. Another 55 million euro are provided for technical assistance and consultations. Strobants pointed out that in the near future great attention will be paid to the development of the railroad infrastructure. The development of pipe-lines is a long-term goal.