Friday, July 18, 2008

PM Serge Sargsian begins U.S. visit

First published in October 20, 2007 Armenian Reporter

Prime Minister Serge Sargsian begins visit to the United States
Meets Vice President Cheney, Defense Secretary Gates
Thanks members of Congress for supporting Genocide resolution
by Emil Sanamyan

WASHINGTON – Prime Minister Serge Sargsian of Armenia, who arrived here on October 18, expressed his country’s gratitude to congressional leaders for their support for the Armenian Genocide resolution.

“We are thankful to those members of Congress who voted in favor of the resolution’s passage” in the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Mr. Sargsian told the Armenian Reporter. He said the issue had not come up in his meeting with Defense Secretary Bob Gates. Their talks on October 18 were focused on U.S.–Armenia military cooperation.

Last week, Mr. Gates along with other Bush administration officials spoke out against the resolution, arguing that its passage may result in the suspension, by Turkey, of military cooperation with the United States, and interfere with logistical supplies to U.S.–led forces in Iraq.

The forces include a small contingent from the Republic of Armenia. According to the Armenian Embassy in Washington, Mr. Gates thanked Mr. Sargsian for Armenia’s contribution to the U.S. effort in Iraq, and the sides discussed a possible peacekeeping deployment by Armenia in Afghanistan.

On October 18 Mr. Sargsyan also visited with Vice President Dick Cheney and the executive director of the U.S. Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) Ambassador
John Danilovich. Speaking to the press following his meeting with Armenia’s prime minister, Mr. Danilovich said that the MCC is “very happy” about how the five-year $235 million program is being implemented in Armenia. [See page A5 for a story on the implementation of the program.]

“We are pleased with the progress Armenia is making in all respects,” Mr. Danilovich said. He added that the MCC looks forward to seeing Armenia’s presidential elections in early 2008 being conducted “in a positive way.” Funding for the program is contingent on Armenia’s continuing compliance with MCC eligibility criteria, which include ongoing improvements in the conduct of elections.

The program began last year and is designed to reduce poverty by developing Armenia’s rural areas.

Armenia qualified for the program because of its government’s relatively liberal democratic and economic policies and its efforts to improve health and education. Among former Soviet republics Georgia, Ukraine, and Moldova have also been found eligible to sign MCC assistance compacts with the U.S. government.

On October 19 and 20, Mr. Sargsian will be in Los Angeles, where he will meet members of the Armenian community. He will then return to Washington on October 21 to attend the annual meetings of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the biannual session of the U.S.–Armenia Task Force on economic cooperation. He will also hold talks with congressional leaders and senior State Department officials.

The bank and IMF have provided developmental and fiscal support to Armenia with programs totaling over $1 billion over the past decade. The organizations’ low-interest loans account for the lion’s share of Armenia’s $1.2 billion foreign debt.
U.S. government aid programs to Armenia have totaled $1.7 billion over fifteen years. Last year, U.S.–Armenia trade amounted to $127 million out of Armenia’s total $3.2 billion foreign-trade turnover. That put the United States fifth among Armenia’s largest trading partners, behind Russia, Germany, Belgium, and the Netherlands.

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