YEREVAN (Noyan Tapan/Itar Tass)–"I strongly believe that both this visit and the due signing of a renewed agreement on interparliamentary cooperation between the National Assembly of Armenia and both Houses of the Federal Assembly of Russia will become another step toward further cooperation between our states," said National Assembly Speaker Babken Ararktsian–greeting the Russian delegation led by Yegor Stroyev Chairman of the Russian Federation Council (Upper House).
Ararktsian referred to the importance of extending interparliamentary cooperation to provide a legislative basis for stronger political–economic and cultural ties between the two countries. "The friends hip–cooperation and mutual assistance agreement signed between our states last August undoubtedly brings the relations between our friendly countries to a new level and provides greater possibilities for further cooperation in all spheres," Ararktsian said.
Addressing the Karabakh issue Ararktsian mentioned that the conflict still remained a major factor hindering Armenia’s development. He believes that that the ongoing blockade of Armenia by Turkey and Azerbaijan and the constant threat of breaching the cease-fire causes tensions in the region arousing serious fears for the security of the people of Karabakh. This also undermines trust in the region and becomes an obstacle to establishing a favorable investment climate.
"Azerbaijan’s attitude towards Karabakh is quite unacceptable to us. Azerbaijan has failed to realize the need to recognize Karabakh as a party to the conflict and to hold talks with Stepanakert. It is impossible to search for a solution by rejecting dialogue. One can’t speak of compromises without agreeing to hold talks with the immediate parties to the conflict," Ararktsian said. He said he hoped that Russia–as an OSCE Minsk Group co-chairman–would continue its efforts to boost the negotiating process to reach a mutually acceptable and–more importantly–a just solution.
Stroyev turn referred to the importance of establishing stronger interparliamentary cooperation both on the bilateral level and within the framework of interparliamentary organizations–in particular–within the CIS Interparliamentary Assembly. According to him–the State Duma is expected to ratify the friendship–cooperation and mutual assistance agreement on February 23.
Addressing the Karabakh settlement–he voiced hope that "the self-restraint of the Armenian side would make it possible to find a compromise solution" in the future. He stated Russia’s position suggesting that the solution should be found with due regard to the interests of all parties concerned. He feels the security of civilians should be of primary importance in settling the conflict.
In a Friday meeting with Levon Ter-Petrosyan–Stroyev said problems in the relations between the Russian and Armenian parliamen’s were solved and full understanding had been achieved at the CIS level. He said that Armenia is a solid and reliable link in the consolidation of the CIS.
"A formula stating that Russia and other CIS countries do not have insoluble problems has been adopted. Russia and Armenia do not have problems at all," Ter-Petrosyan said.
Stroyev pointed out the similarity of stances and a mutual support of Russian and Armenian law-makers in the CIS Inter-Parliamentary Assembly and international forums. He acknowledged that Russia and Armenia have more things in common than peculiarities.
At a news conference on Friday–Stroyev explained that the main topic of discussion with Ter-Petrosyan–and the one he would discuss with Azeri President Gaidar Aliyev–was the Karabakh settlement. According to Stroyev–Ter-Petrosyan requested him to convey to Aliyev a proposal of gradual settlement–to provide room for diplomats–deputies and statesmen to work.
Asked whether Russia’s settlement of the Chechen conflict could be used as a basis for Nagorno-Karabakh–Stroyev said–"there is no settlement model for Chechnya–it is a tragedy and its consequences will be felt for decades. I think we will find a way out with the help of all the Caucasian peoples."
Stroyev noted the active role of the CIS Interparliamentary Assembly in the settlement of conflicts and disputes and expressed hope that they would manage to resume communication between the Caucasus and Russia–including in matter related to railroad transportation. Armenia is cut off from the Russian market–and Russian regions are eager to develop trade and economic relations with Armenia and sell their merchandise in the Armenian market–Stroyev said. A similar wish to boost economic cooperation with Russia was voiced by the Armenian leaders–he noted.
Following a visit to St. Etchmiadzin–the Russian delegation left for Baku.