YEREVAN (Noyan Tapan)–President of Greece Constantinos Stephanopoulos–who is currently visiting Armenia–visited Tsitsernakaberd Wednesday and laid a wreath on the Memorial to the Genocide Victims.
The Greek president also visited the Institute-Museum of the Genocide–where Museum Director Lavrenty Barseghian presented the history of the Armenian genocide and the Armenian Cause.
The Greek president signed a guestbook of the Museum and again condemned the genocide of Armenia’s in the Ottoman Empire.
Following that–Stephanopoulos planted a tree in commemoration of the Genocide victims at Dzidzerbagapert. Condemning the genocide of Armenia’s and Greeks–Stephanopoulos voiced confidence that "through combined efforts in the entire mankind–such things will be condemned and never repeated."
Also on Wednesday–Armenia and Greece signed three interstate documen’s on. Among the three are the intergovernmental agreement "On cooperation and mutual assistance between customs services"; the agreement "On the prevention of double taxation of income and property and the prevention of tax evasion"; the protocol on the exchange of instrumen’s of ratification of the "Agreement on Accord–Friendship and Cooperation" signed between the governmen’s of Greece and Armenia during Levon Ter-Petrosyan’s visit to Greece in January–1996. Greek President Constantinos Stephanopoulos presented his Armenian counterpart Robert Kocharian with Greece’s highest award – "The Savior Order."
The signing ceremony was followed by a press briefing. Kocharian reported that during a face-to-face talk with his Greek counterpart the Armenian side appreciated Greece’s role in furthering Armenia’s relations with European structures and stated that they expected Greek assistance in the matter. The meeting discussed the latest developmen’s in the Caucasus and the Balkans as well as ways to develop and expand bilateral relations–possibilities of developing trilateral and multilateral relations. In the context of regional problems the two also discussed the oil issue. In answer to a journalist’s question–the president of Armenia’stressed that the oil factor is being exaggerated and that "today it is of no significance and resonance as it perhaps was some three or four years ago."
Both presidents gave assurances that there are no political differences in relations between the two countries and that the two countries have the same or very similar approaches almost on all issues. Saying that "there is no need to improve political relations as they are excellent," the Greek president stated that a mutual agreement had been reached to boost cooperation in the fields of economy–trade and culture. There are all necessary legal underpinnings to expand economic cooperation (25 interstate documen’s between Armenia and Greece).
The two said neither the current visit of the president of Greece to Armenia nor bilateral military cooperation was directed against any third country. The president of Armenia expressed satisfaction with the level of cooperation in this area.
In answer to a journalist’s question–the Armenian president ascribed the great amount of Turkish goods on the Armenian market to business interests. Kocharian emphasized that in the cases of programs of great public significance–the Armenian government was pursuing a purpose-oriented policy–and "it was not a mere chance that the deal on the entire communication system was signed with a Greek company."
The Greek president undertook his visit to Armenia in return to the 1996 official visit of Armenian President Levon Ter-Petrosyan to Greece. Armenian President Robert Kocharian received an invitation to pay a return visit to Greece.
Deputy Minister of Industry Armen Petrossian reported a day earlier that Greece was one of the first countries to recognize Armenia’s independence and establish diplomatic relations with it. Stable political relations between the two countries have been established during recent years. Pointing to the great share of the investmen’s made by Greek companies in Armenia’s economy in the total volume of investmen’s–Petrossian stressed that much is still to be done to develop the trade and economic cooperation.
Deputy Minister of the National Economy of Greece Alexandros Baltas said that besides trade relations there are great possibilities of establishing bilateral relations and cooperation in the transportation–telecommunications–tourist and energy spheres as well as in small and medium-sized business. Baltas stressed that Greece will cooperate with Armenia in the latter’s becoming a member of the European Union.
Baltas expressed confidence that Greece’s economic policy will allow the country to become a full member of the European Currency Union. "We offer Armenia to become Greece’s ally in the integration process of creating the united Europe," Baltas said. He also reported that Greece is rendering assistance to Armenia in its becoming a member of the World Trade Organization.
Greek businessmen also arrived in Armenia in their president’s delegation. Armenia is not satisfied with the current level of trade with Greece–which is only $9.2 million a year and extremely low a share in Armenia’s overall foreign trade–Tigran Davtian–chief of the marketing department of the Ministry of Industry and Trade–said during his meeting with Greek businessmen.
Armenia deems it a priority in its foreign economic policy to create most favorable and liberal regimes for its major trade partners. Armenia has a free trade zone with some of the CIS countries and most-favored nation regimes with its major trade partners–particularly with Greece. Armenia enjoys a preferential treatment of the European Union and Japan. According to Davtian–Armenia has the most liberal systems of non-tariff and tariff regulation of import and export (for example–the average import duty in Armenia is near to international standards).
Armenia is one of the few newly independent countries with annually growing stable GDPs. Last year’s GDP growth in Armenia exceeded the similar showings reported in CIS countries.