YEREVAN–(Armenpress–RFE/RL) NATO Secretary General George Robertson–who met today with the staff and students of the French University of Armenia–conveyed that President Kocharian has expressed readiness to actively cooperate in NATO’s Partnership for Peace program.
NATO–Robertson said–has formulated programs to utilize the potential of the South Caucasus region. "NATO will play some role in the process of the conflict regulation in the region–but the main responsibility to provide peace and stability lies on the regional countries. We will do our best to fully support the regulation process," revealed Robertson–and stressed that strengthening ties with the Russian Federation would only support this process.
The NATO secretary general had met on Tuesday with Russian President Vladimir Putin. The two men agreed that Russian-NATO cooperation was in full swing and that the old adversarial relationship between Russia and NATO is a thing of the past.
"By eliminating borders dividing the Euro-Atlantic region–NATO has–during the past 15 years spread peace and democratic values," Robertson told students and staff–stressing that the Alliance has gained the strategic cooperation of Russia and European Union. "We jointly discussed the threats of Twenty First century during last year’s summit in Prague. Our decisions will enable us to struggle against terrorism–consequences of weapons of mass destruction–and instability in order to build an effective system."
The NATO chief declined to comment on the question of the Armenian genocide–saying that he would not go into discussions on the issue–although he was aware that Armenia’s have firm believes. Lord Robertson also told students that Armenian Defense Minister reassured him that he will send peace-keeping troops to Kosovo to support NATO’s peacekeeping operations. According to Robertson–the Armenian peacekeeping unit will operate jointly with Greek troops.
Last week NATO moved one step closer to increasing its ran’s by seven countries after the United States endorsed the new candidates. Russia has generally opposed NATO’s expansion plans–but has worked with the alliance over the past decade as it continues to grow.
ROBERTSON IN BAKU
From Armenia–Robertson traveled to Azerbaijan on Thursday to address the country’s National Assembly. Referring particularly to the Karabagh conflict–the NATO secretary general said the matter must be discussed only by the two conflicting sides. NATO–he stressed–would not intervene in the settlement of the conflict–but because the conflict weakens the region and creates new threats–its regulation is important to the Alliance.
Russia–he suggested–may play an important role in the process of regulation of conflicts in the South Caucasus–and stressed the importance of cooperation between Russia and Azerbaijan.