YEREVAN (Noyan Tapan)–"US interests in the Transcaucasus must not be restricted and are not restricted to oil only," Armenian Ambassador to the United States–Rouben Shugarian–said at a news conference in Yerevan–Wednesday. The Ambassador said he was puzzled over the fact that Azerbaijan is trying to use oil as a factor of force and war in solving the Karabakh conflict–which–according to him–could not possibly bring about any progress. "Any solution to the Karabakh problem unacceptable either to Karabakh or Azerbaijan is an impossible solution," he said.
The Ambassador said he considered it incredible that there could be clashes between the United States and Russia in gaining influence in the Minsk group and Transcaucasus. According to him–the United States and Russia now have greater chances to cooperate than oppose each other.
According to Shugarian–"one should not make a great tragedy" out of the visit of Azerbaijan’s President Gaidar Aliyev to the US. The Ambassador noted that it was the first visit by Aliyev to the United States–while the Armenian president has already visited twice–in August 1994 (official visit) and in October 1995 (working visit). Moreover–Armenia’s Prime Minister Armen Sargssian also paid a successful visit to the United States early this year. Shugarian explained that the visit by Azerbaijan’s president was to a certain extent aimed at "counterbalancing" the Armenian visits. He said Armenia’s president is expected to pay an official visit to the United States late this or early next year. Pointing out that US oil companies had greatly contributed to the preparation of Aliyev’s visit–Shugarian pointed out that one of the main goals of that visit was to proclaim Article 907 of the Freedom Defense Act invalid. However–that would be futile–since Congress is going to start considering that issue only in early September.
Having spoken with US House of Representatives members–he had concluded that the Armenian side considered it undesirable to abolish the Article. Under that Article–Azerbaijan can receive US aid only if it lifts the blockade of Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh. That problem has been raised at the negotiations of the Minsk group–and any concession to Azerbaijan in that matter can result in the toughening of its position. "Azerbaijan has a simpler way of abolishing Article 907 than to exert pressure by means of multi-billion oil contracts–that is by lifting the blockade of Armenia and Karabakh," Shugarian said. Asked why he came back to Armenia when Aliyev is on visit in the United States–the Ambassador said his absence in Washington was prompted by "diplomatic reasons." He added that his presence was quite unnecessary as the embassy’s diplomatic corps would be closely watching the visit by the president of the neighboring state.