BY ARA KHACHATOURIAN Asbarez English Editor
WASHINGTON–During a luncheon-meeting Wednesday with the Armenian-American Congressional Caucus–President Robert Kocharian conveyed to US legislatures the importance of Genocide recognition–not just for Armenia–but Turkey as well.
Kocharian said that recognition of the Armenian Genocide would also benefit Turkey–in a sense that it would promote political cooperation in the region. He also thanked the Congressional leaders gathered at the meeting for their efforts in garnering recognition for the Genocide.
"The Armenian state is working actively with the community in the recognition of the Armenian Genocide. I don’t believe that this would hinder Armenia’s relations with Turkey. In fact it would make it better. Perhaps–this is not a problem only for Armenia’s–it is a problem for the Turks. It should be measured who would benefit the most from this recognition," stated Kocharian.
Present at the meeting with Kocharian were foreign minister Vartan Oskanian–Presidential press secretary and interpreter Vahe Gabrielian and Armenia’s Ambassador to the US Arman Kirakossian.
Attending the meeting were 28 Caucus members–including Caucus co-chairmen representatives Frank Pallone (D-NJ) and John Porter (R-Ill.) Also present were Xavier Becerra (D-Calif.)–Shelley Berkeley (D-Nev.)–Michael Capuano (D-Mass.)–Vernon Ehlers (R-Mich.)–Elliot Engel (D-NY)–Bob Filner (D-Calif.)–Benjamin Gilman (R-NY)–Maurice Hinchey (D-NY)–Joseph Hoeffel (D-Pa.)–Rush Holt (D-NJ)–Steve Horn (R-Calif.)–Steny Hoyer (D-Md.)–Joe Knowlenberg (R-Mich.)–Sander Levin (D-Mich.)–James McGovern (D-Mass.)–Juanita Millender-McDonald (D-Calif.)–Joe Moakley (D-Mass.)–James Moran (D-Va.)–Connie Morella (R-Md.)–Grace Napolitano (D-Calif.)–George Radanovich (R-Calif.)–Jim Rogan (R-Calif.)–Steve Rothman (D-NJ)–Brad Sherman (D-Calif.)–Mark Souder (R-Ind.)–Peter Viscloscky (D-Ind.).
Also discussed at the meeting was the ongoing peace process for the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
"As I told the president [Clinton]–I met with Azeri President Haydar Aliyev several days ago in Moscow. We decided to continue our active contacts. We will be meeting in August and in the coming several months we will have more meetings to continue to find a resolution to the conflict," Kocharian reported to the Caucus members.
Kocharian also emphasized the importance of maintaining Section 907–legislation limiting US assistance to Azerbaijan until that country ends it blockade of Armenia.
"The region–as a whole–can be viewed as a single economic force. It is important that Armenia–Azerbaijan and Georgia are going in the same direction of reforms–although the pace might be different. That’s why we have begun to talk in the same language. We are able to anticipate each other’s moves. Pres. Aliyev believes that no economic relations are possible until the Karabakh conflict is over. I believe otherwise–since we have common economic interests–we may cooperate economically and through that we may achieve peace," Kocharian explained.
In response to a question from Rep. Gliman regarding convening a summit between US–Armenia and Azerbaijan–to discuss the Karabakh conflict resolution process–Kocharian said such a meeting was being discussed to take place in September during the UN General Assembly in New York.
Kocharian thanked the Congressional Caucus leaders and informed them that the issue of Armenia’s membership in the council of Europe is being discussed.
"This implies that there are certain standards of democracy in our country and we can build up on that," said Kocharian.
He informed the Caucus members that the Armenian government has made strides in the economic realm and was anticipating to join the World Trade Organization.
He also touched on bi-lateral relations with the US–saying that one of the important steps taking in strengthening those ties has been the establishment of the Armenian-American Task Force–which met for the first time in Washington in May and is scheduled to meet in September in Yerevan.
Kocharian also thanked Congress for earmarking $30 million for the earthquake zone reconstruction efforts. He also stated that investment in Armenia and trade with the US would become much easier–if double-taxation measures were repealed.
"We have initiated negotiations with the US government to ratify conventions to repeal double taxation on US businesses operating in Armenia," explained Kocharian.
In overviewing Armenia’s internal political stability–Kocharian assured the Congressional leaders that the crisis was over–adding that Armenia was ready to continue the reforms set forth last year following the May 1999 parliamentary elections.
In an exclusive interview with RFE/RL’s Armenian Service–Armenian Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian said that there was no substantial shift in the Karabakh peace process as a result of Kocharian’s meetings with President Clinton and Vice President Al Gore.
"However–the meetings were very important"–because the Armenian side was able to presented its position on Nagorno-Karabakh conflict settlement–Oskanian added.
"We told them which solution is acceptable for us–which is not–as well as what are our expectations on the future developmen’s". "I think as a result of the Washington meeting they [the US leadership] have more clear picture on what are the possible developmen’s in the future and what are the solutions that can make progress in the negotiating process"–Oskanian said.
The minister also said that the dialog between Kocharian and Aliyev has only just resumed–and that it is too early to expect a solution of the conflict. Commenting on the question of whether United States is making a Nagorno-Karabakh peace settlement a precondition for economic assistance–Vartan Oskanian said that US Congress has already allocated $90 million economic assistance for Armenia–without conditions attached. The Armenian Foreign Minister said that the US makes Karabakh peace a condition only for additional economic assistance that will help to improve Armenia’s economy.