WASHINGTON (RFE/RL)–The newly appointed US Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Elizabeth Jones today starts her first official visit to Ukraine and South Caucasus States of Armenia–Azerbaijan and Georgia. Speaking to reporters yesterday at the Foreign Press Service in Washington–Elizabeth Jones said in South Caucasus she will be meeting with Presidents Aliyev–Kocharian and Shevardnadze–as well as with the leaders of political and non-governmental organizations in each of those three countries.
"In the Caucasus–it’ll be very important for me to underscore the US commitment to the sovereignty–independence and stability of the three states of the Caucasus," assistant Secretary of State said.
The countries of South Caucasus are facing difficulties to make a successful transition from their past as part of the Soviet Union to the democratic societies with the free-market economies.
According to Elizabeth Jones–the main goal of US policy in South Caucasus states is to promote political freedom and building an economic prosperity for the peoples and the countries of the region."
Elizabeth Jones will also have a meeting with the OSCE Minsk Group in Vienna–where she will talk about progress that has been made in the Nagorno-Karabakh discussions.
The State Department official described the Nagorno-Karabakh peace process as very successful. "There was a lot of progress made at Key West.
There are continuing negotiations–discussions on the basis of the progress that was made at Key West," Jones said.
The State Department Official urged not to dramatize the absence of final agreement on Nagorno-Karabakh–saying she is very optimistic on the peace prospects. "But as to timing–I wouldn’t hazard a guess".
According to Elizabeth Jones–the United States is very eager to facilitate Karabakh negotiations "as much as possible."
"We are extremely pleased with the cooperation–collegiality that we’ve gotten in the Minsk Group with our colleagues from France and Russia.
President Chirac and President Putin have been very eager–very helpful–very forthcoming in the support that they’ve given to the negotiations–and we are very hopeful that eventually this negotiation will reach the kind of success that we all hope for."
The State Department official said that In Ukraine Elizabeth Jones will participate in the official celebrations of 10th anniversary of independence–which will take place on Friday.