ASBAREZ ONLINE [06-15-2004]

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06/15/2004
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1) Karabagh Tops Talks between Oskanian, Powell
2) EU Includes South Caucasus Countries in Neighborhood Policy
3) Congressmen Schiff, Radanovich Seek Committee Hearing on Armenian Victims
Insurance Fairness Act
4) World Bank Extends $24 Million to Support Armenia Reforms
5) Gul Presents Turkey’s Vision for Karabagh at Islamic Conference

1) Karabagh Tops Talks between Oskanian, Powell

YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–Armenia’s Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian met with US
Secretary of State Colin Powell and other top officials on Monday to discuss
the Mountainous Karabagh conflict, during Oskanian’s visit to Washington.
Commenting on the meeting, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher noted
that Oskanian and Powell “discussed progress towards settlement of the
Mountainous Karabagh conflict.” “They also discussed the possibilities for
improving relations between Turkey and Armenia and Armenia’s prospects for
receiving funds under the Millennium Challenge Account,” Boucher added. “We
also understand that Foreign Minister Oskanian is meeting today with Assistant
Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs Beth Jones, to go into some of
these issues in more detail.”
Oskanian was also due to meet with national security adviser Condoleeza Rice,
and senior Pentagon officials. Armenian government officials have rarely held
such high-level talks in the US capital in recent year.
The meeting comes in advance of the June 21 Prague meeting between Oskanian
and Azerbaijan’s Foreign Minister Elmar Mamedyarov.
The two men have met twice in recent weeks under the auspices of the OSCE’s
Minsk Group, co-chaired by the United States, Russia, and France. They have
both issued cautiously optimistic statements, with Mamedyarov saying late last
month that the peace talks are “intensifying” after a period of stagnation.
Oskanian’s trip to Washington follows an unexpected visit to Yerevan on
June 3
by Steven Mann, America’s chief Karabagh negotiator.

2) EU Includes South Caucasus Countries in Neighborhood Policy

BRUSSELS (Armenpress/EurActiv.com)–The European Union (EU) this week formally
included Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan in its European Neighborhood Policy
(ENP). The move does not open the door to EU membershipofficials studiously
avoid speculation, saying simply membership is “not on the agenda.” However,
the new neighborhood initiative could, over the next decades, lead to free
trade, substantial aid grants, and extensive political dialogue with the EU.
EU foreign ministers hailed the decision–passed by EU’s External Relations
Council in Luxembourg on June 14–as a “significant step forward in the
Union’s
engagement with this region.”
The ENP’s goal is to create circumstances that will allow Europe and its
neighboring countries to “share the benefits of an enlarged EU.”
Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia will be given equal opportunity to develop
links with the EU, and be allowed to submit Action Plans aimed at bolstering
reforms. The plans, which must last a minimum of three years and promote
regional cooperation, will be assessed based on individual merits, and in
conformity to general ENP policy.
The EU also identified Russia as a key partner in the bloc’s new strategy of
upgrading political and economic relations with its neighbors.

3) Congressmen Schiff, Radanovich Seek Committee Hearing on Armenian Victims
Insurance Fairness Act

WASHINGTON, DCCalifornia Congressmen Adam Schiff and George Radanovich have
formally requested a committee hearing on the Armenian Victims Insurance
Fairness Act (HR 3323).
The bill would allow states to require insurance companies to disclose the
identity of Genocide-era insurance policy holders.
Unable to access necessary documents, many victims and their families are
still unable to collect benefits owed to them.
The Armenian Bar Association endorsed the legislation in April.
“It is important for Congress to speak clearly on this issue so that states
are permitted to act if they so choose,” Congressmen Schiff and Radanovich
wrote in their letter to House Financial Services Committee Chairman
Michael G.
Oxley, requesting the hearing. “Private settlement negotiations between
insurance companies and families have been slow with no final resolutions
reached to date. Families should not have to wait any longer for
disclosure of
policyholder lists.”
Customarily, a committee hearing on a bill is the first step followed by the
committee’s votes on the legislation at a later date.

4) World Bank Extends $24 Million to Support Armenia Reforms

WASHINGTON, DC– More than 22 million dollars will be extended to the Armenian
Water and Sewage Company to implement its Municipal Water and Wastewater
Project. The allocation will come from a Development Credit Agreement between
the Government of Armenia and the World Bank’s International Development
Association, signed on June 14 by Armenia’s Ambassador to the US Dr. Arman
Kirakossian, and World Bank’s Resident Representative in Armenia Roger
Robinson.
Armenia’s water utility has undergone fundamental reforms for more than four
years, and the World Bank credit is expected to advance greater reforms.
Also signed was a Development Credit Agreement, which will allocate a
supplemental $1.75 million to Armenia’s ongoing Agricultural Reforms Support
Program.
During the signing ceremony, Robinson praised the Armenian government for its
cooperation in implementing the World Bank programs.
Ambassador Kirakossian said that by way of its expertise and financing since
the reestablishment of independence in Armenia, the World Bank has helped the
Government in its effort to alleviate poverty and promote economic growth.

5) Gul Presents Turkey’s Vision for Karabagh at Islamic Conference

ISTANBUL (Anadolu Agency)–Speaking at the 31st session of Islamic Conference
of Foreign Ministers in Istanbul on Monday, Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah
Gul stressed that the Azeri-Armenian conflict still stands as one of the
principle obstacles to regional stability, prosperity, and cooperation in the
South Caucasus. “The time has come to find a peaceful solution to this
conflict
[while] maintaining the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan. The Armenian
occupation of Azerbaijani territories has to be brought to an end. This is in
the interest of the regional countries as well as the international community.
Turkey is ready to play its role in settling this issue.”
Commenting on the Cyprus issue, Gul noted that it is time for the
international community to give full backing to the Turkish Cypriots by
engaging in direct economic, commercial, social and cultural contact. “The EU
and the United States have already taken some steps with a view to putting an
end to the isolation of Turkish Cypriots,” Gul said, urging the Islamic World
to also extend full support to Turkish Cypriot “Muslim Brothers.”

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