BRUSSELS (EAFJD)–Armenian President Robert Kocharian paid an official visit to Belgium October 19 to 21–and met with several top officials of the European Union (EU).
Kocharian met with the president of the European Parliament–Josep Borrell–to discuss the start of talks with Armenia within the framework of the European Neighborhood Policy. This new policy aims to share the "peace–stability–and prosperity" of the EU with its neighbors.
Implementation of action plans with the three South Caucasus countries–Armenia–Azerbaijan–and Georgia–has been delayed because of concerns with Azerbaijan. In August–Baku began to allow direct flights to and from the occupied part of Cyprus–leading to friction with the European Union.
Borrel explained the absurdity of punishing Armenia–for example–as a result of its neighbors. "It would be strange to block the start of the talks with Armenia over Cyprus; that dispute doesn’t concern Armenia at all." He ensured that the European Parliament would "do what it can to guarantee the EU negotiates with Armenia." Kocharian said he hopes to start talks by the end of the year.
Also during the meeting–Borrell restated European Parliament’s position requiring Turkey to recognize the Armenian genocide and lift its blockade of Armenia as a prerequisite to [EU] accession.
On the same day–the Armenian president met with EU’s Foreign Policy Chief Javier Solana–who reiterated the prerequisite–insisting specifically on the need for a quick opening of the border by Turkey.
He described the relationship between the EU and Armenia as–"very constructive–very solid–and very frank." He also said he was confident negotiations with Armenia would begin in the foreseeable future.
After the meeting–Solana was asked by reporters about the EU’s position on Turkey’s attempt to tighten its blockade of Armenia by constructing a new Kars–Akhalkalak–Tbilisi railway rather than using the existing one that passes through Armenia. Solana responded: "We [with President Kocharian] talked about this matter. We talked about Armenia’s border with Turkey; we will do everything possible. The more the Armenian-Turkish border is opened the better. In that case there will no longer be the need to have this new railroad."
"We hail these clarified positions that reveal key EU leaders are on the right track–a track that matches European values," declared Laurent Leylekian–executive director of the European Armenian Federation. "Armenia and the European Union want reinforced relations but these relations are hindered by other states. Therefore–it was essential to reaffirm these value–be they on Genocide recognition or Turkey’s blockade–and to depart from the regional approach–which artificially binds countries that advance reforms to those that have not moved forward" he said. Leylekian stressed that the European Commission has to now turn these positions into policies.
During his visit–President Kocharian inaugurated the new Armenian embassy in Brussels. Kocharian also accompanied Anne-Marie Lizin–Chairwoman of the Belgian Senate–in paying tribute to victims of the Armenian genocide during a ceremony at the monument in Ixelles–in the presence of many Belgian policymakers and representatives of the Armenian diaspora.