ASBAREZ Online [01-11-2005]

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01/11/2005
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1. Armenia Demands Corrections to Atkinson Report on Karabagh Conflict
2. Russia Ready to Act as Intermediary in South Caucasus Conflicts
3. Oskanian, Mammadyarov Meeting in Prague
4. Armenia Hails New Russian-Georgian Ferry Link

1. Armenia Demands Corrections to Atkinson Report on Karabagh Conflict

In a letter to the President and Secretary General of the Parliamentary
Assembly of the Council of Europe, (PACE), Armenia has requested that several
corrections be made to the January 26 PACE report on the Mountainous Karabagh
conflict, reports the Trend news agency.
In their letter to PACE president Peter Schieder and secretary general Terry
Davis, Armenia’s parliamentary leadership accuses the European Commission of
one-sidedly supporting Azerbaijan’s position [in the conflict], and demands
the
removal of the term “separatist forces,” among others. Armenia also expresses
serious concern that the report fails to reflect issues tied to the regions of
Ketashen and Shahumian.
Overall, the Armenian side requests changes in 14 articles of the report that
deal with the status of Mountainous Karabagh, format of negotiations, and the
history of that conflict. Authored by PACE rapporteur David Atkinson, the
report will be reviewed on January 22 PACE’s Political Committee during a
Council of Europe leadership summit.

2. Russia Ready to Act as Intermediary in South Caucasus Conflicts

MOSCOW (Combined Sources)–Russian president Vladimir Putin affirmed his
readiness to act only as an intermediary in the settlement of the Karabagh
conflict.
“Russia will do everything possible to settle the conflicts remaining on
post-Soviet space, including the long-lasting Karabagh conflict,” Putin
announced. “However, we will do it only as an intermediary and guarantor of
agreements which are going to be reached by conflicting sides.”
Meeting with Turkish businessmen in Moscow, Putin said that although the
Karabagh conflict was not discussed specifically, general issues of relations
between countries in the region were on the agenda. Both sides, he stated,
expressed the desire to establish friendly relations among neighbors.
Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan again ruled out an unconditional
reopening of his country’s border with Armenia, saying that official Yerevan
should first take unspecified “positive” steps.
Putin, meanwhile, pledged to assist in the normalization of relations between
the two historical foes.
“If we see positive approaches from Armenia’s government, we will open the
border. But we don’t see such approaches now,” Erdogan said at a joint news
conference with Putin during an official visit to Moscow. He did not
elaborate.

The Turkish premier’s stance contrasted with Putin’s positive assessment of
the Armenian leadership’s efforts to improve relations with Turkey. Putin said
Moscow is holding “constant consultations” with Ankara on the normalization of
Turkish-Armenian ties.
“Armenia is looking for ways of improving relations with Turkey,” he said.
“Russia will assist in this process as much as possible.”
Putin was also pleased with the current state of Russian-Turkish relations,
pointing in particular to the booming trade between the two nations seen as
longtime geopolitical rivals. “Our most optimistic forecasts about economic
cooperation have come true,” he told Erdogan.
According to Putin, Russia and Turkey need to “continue developing an
effective infrastructure of bilateral trade.”
Erdogan, in his turn, promised to support Russia’s admission to the World
Trade Organization. “Turkey is expected to demonstrate its full support for
Russia’s membership in the WTO at a meeting of the working group on Russia’s
admission to the WTO in Geneva on January 24,” he said.
He highly commended the high level of trade and economic relations between
the
two countries. “We couldn’t even dream about this 10-15 years ago,” Erdogan
said.
Ways to broaden cooperation will be discussed by the Business Council on
Wednesday, which will be attended by Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov.
Putin thanked the Turkish businessmen for their concrete proposals, assuring
them that “all those proposals will be thoroughly studied by Russian experts
and ministry officials.”

3. Oskanian, Mammadyarov Meeting in Prague

PRAGUE (RFE/RL)–After three-hour talks with his Azeri counterpart Elmar
Mammadyarov, Armenian Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian revealed that no
specific agreement for a resolution to the Mountainous Karabagh conflict had
been reached.
“I wish I could say that there is a full agreement on the principles [of the
settlement],” he said. “But we are still not there. There is a general
framework of issues [discussed by the parties], but as this meeting showed,
they need to be further consolidated.”
The meeting took place in Prague on Tuesday, in the presence of French,
Russian, and US mediators; it marked the start of the second stage of “the
Prague process.”
Oskanian refused to go into details of the discussions, saying that much
remains to be done for hammering out a compromise agreement acceptable to both
parties. “This is a fairly difficult and complex process and it will continue
to be like this during further meetings,” he said. “On the whole, I consider
the overall mood and the atmosphere positive.
“It is still too early too disclose any details. Once we have agreements on
concrete issues, I think we will be able to talk about them little by
little.”
Asked about chances of a breakthrough in the peace process this year,
Oskanian
said, “We are working toward achieving that goal. But it is still too early to
make definite statements to that effect.”

4. Armenia Hails New Russian-Georgian Ferry Link

YEREVAN (RFE/RL–Armenian government officials and businessmen said on Monday
that they are looking forward to the impending launch of a Russian-Georgian
ferry link that will effectively restore Armenia’s rail communication with
Russia disrupted more than a decade ago.
A relevant agreement was due to be signed in Tbilisi by Russia’s Transport
Minister Igor Levitin and Georgia’s Minister of Economic Development Alexi
Alexishvili. The planned regular service between the Georgian Black Sea
port of
Poti and Russia’s Port Kavkaz is designed for cargos shipped in train cars. It
is expected to become operational by the end of this month.
Senior officials from Armenia and Azerbaijan were also in the Georgian
capital
to discuss final preparations for the launch of the service. Transport and
Communications Minister Andranik Manukian, who headed the Armenian delegation,
was quoted by the Itar-Tass news agency as welcoming the Russian-Georgian
agreement.
Armenian businessmen involved in external trade were also confident about its
positive impact on landlocked Armenia’s economy. “It will have considerable
effects on the cost of goods shipped from Armenia to Russia and vice versa,”
said Arsen Ghazarian, chairman of the Armenian Union of Entrepreneurs and
Industrialists. He said the high transportation costs in Russian-Armenian
trade
could go down by 30 percent as a result.
Ferries capable of carrying heavy train cars have until now operated between
Poti and Ukrainian and Bulgarian ports. Armenia has relied on them heavily in
its commercial exchange with the rest of the world.
The Armenian government has long been pushing for the opening of the
Poti-Kavkaz service and has financially contributed to the scheme. Among the
costs involved was the purchase of a ferryboat that can carry up to 28 rails
during a single journey. The service is expected to operate twice a week.
“The volume of our cargo turnover [with Russia] is great,” said Vladimir
Badalian, co-chairman of the Armenian-Georgian Business Association.
“According
to our calculations, we need four or even more ferries.”
But Ghazarian disagreed. “I don’t think there is a need for a second ferry
right now,” he said. “What we need is that the existing ferry operates at full
capacity in both directions so that we have a reasonable transportation
cost.”
Levitin’s trip to Tbilisi, the second in two months, is also likely to have
involved discussions on ways of reopening direct rail communication between
Russia and Georgia that used to run through the breakaway region of Abkhazia.
Speaking to reporters in Moscow on December 28, Levitin sounded upbeat about
the possibility of doing that as early as this year. He said he believes that
it is now possible to restore the rail link, once vital for the Armenian
economy, before a full resolution of the Abkhaz conflict.

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