YEREVAN (Combined Sources)–US Congressman Jim Kolbe–Congressman Scott Garrett–and Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) Chief Executive Officer John J. Danilovich are visiting Armenia as a part of their regional tour to review government–economic–and military issues in the South Caucasus. As part of their trip–Representatives Kolbe and Garrett–and Ambassador Danilovich will visit MCC and other United States Government-funded assistance project sites throughout Armenia.
In their meetings with Armenian government officials–the delegation will discuss US-Armenian bilateral relations–civil society development–and the importance of free and fair elections in Armenia in 2007 and 2008.
But the $235 million assistance to be provided under the Bush administration’s Millennium Challenge Account (MCA) program was the main focus of Representatives Kolbe’s and Garrett’s talks with President Robert Kocharian and other Armenian leaders. The two lawmakers and Danilovich also met with local businessmen and representatives of non-governmental organizations.
Kolbe–who chairs the Appropriations Committee of the US House of Representatives–described the meetings as "very productive."We believe that this is a dynamic new way of delivering foreign assistance to countries that have shown a commitment to the rule of law and to an open society," he said–referring to MCA. "Transformational economic development must go hand in hand with political democracy–and that’s why Armenia has been chosen [for MCA funding]."
"We believe this is a country which is moving forward in that area," he added.
Speaking to reporters–Kolbe specifically noted that he trusts the Kocharian administration’s pledges to ensure proper conduct of Armenia’s next parliamentary and presidential elections due in 2007 and 2008 respectively. But he said the United States will closely monitor the entire electoral processes to see if they meet Yerevan’s MCA commitmen’s. "We would not embark on this program if we were not confident that the Armenian authorities are committed to free elections," he said.
Kocharian was quoted by his office as assuring the visiting congressmen and the chief executive of the Millennium Challenge Corporation–John Danilovich–that "Armenia remains committed to strengthening democracy and liberalism."
Kocharian also thanked the US government for the release of extra US aid to Armenia within the frameworks of the MCC–saying that Armenia remains committed to strengthening of democracy and liberal market relations–for which the MCC aid is intended for. He noted the importance of the aid–because it targets mainly rural populations by improving rural infrastructure reconstructing irrigation systems.