Sunday, December 21, 2008

Obama/Biden on phone; NKR Pres. in U.S.; U.S.-Armenia task force meets in DC

First published in November 22, 2008 Armenian Reporter.

Washington Briefing
by Emil Sanamyan

Obama, Biden in telephone talks with foreign leaders

President-elect Barack Obama and Vice President-elect Joe Biden called a number of "world leaders and expressed thanks and appreciation for their congratulations on the election."

The presidential transition web site reports that on November 6, Mr. Obama took calls from leaders of close U.S. allies Australia, Great Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Israel, Japan, Mexico, and South Korea. On November 7 he spoke with leaders of Italy, Spain, Poland, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan, and on November 8 with those of Russia and China.

The president-elect phoned Presidents Abdullah Gül of Turkey and Mikheil Saakashvili of Georgia, as well as the Philippines president on November 17; the presidents of Colombia, Nigeria, Senegal, and South Africa, and United Nations secretary general on November 18; and the presidents of Argentina, Chile, Kazakhstan, and Palestine, and the Irish Prime Minister, on November 19.

No details of conversations were reported by the president-elect, but Mr. Saakashvili's office reported that "the U.S. President-elect expressed his unconditional support to the territorial integrity of Georgia and focused on the importance of continuation of the ongoing reforms in Georgia [and] U.S. support in this regard."

And according to Mr. Gul's office, Mr. Obama "emphasized the importance of the special relations between the two allies, Turkey and U.S." and backed Turkey's fight against Kurdish rebels.

Other calls to foreign leaders were made by Sen. Biden. On November 10 he telephoned the Israeli foreign minister, Tzipi Livni, who is likely to be the next prime minister, Defense Minister Ehud Barak, and opposition leader Binyamin (Bibi) Netanyahu; Britain's Prime Minister Gordon Brown, as well as the presidents of Poland and Afghanistan and, on November 11, the king of Jordan.

And on November 17, Mr. Biden called the European Union's Javier Solana, as well as the presidents of Colombia and Georgia, the prime minister of Spain, and the foreign minister of Greece.

Karabakh president begins U.S. visit

President Bako Sahakian of the Nagorno Karabakh Republic (NKR) began a 10-day working visit to the United States on November 18. Mr. Sahakian's delegation includes NKR Finance Minister Spartak Tevosian and other officials.

The trip is dedicated to the annual Thanksgiving Day telethon in support of Karabakh and Armenia organized by the Armenia Fund in Los Angeles and includes stops in Boston and New York for meetings with Armenian-American community leaders.

Since its creation in 1992, the fund has supported key transportation infrastructure in Karabakh with about $185 million spent on projects throughout Armenia.

U.S.-Armenia Task Force meets in Washington

Economic Development Minister Nerses Yeritsian led an Armenian government delegation to Washington for talks with U.S. officials from November 19 to 21.

The visit was within the regular U.S.-Armenia Task Force (USATF) mechanism and included visits with official counterparts at the Departments of State and Commerce, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, and the Millennium Challenge Corporation. The USATF's American co-chair is currently Daniel Rosenblum, the State Department assistance to Eurasia coordinator.

USATF was previously co-chaired by Armenia's Finance and Economy Ministers Levon Barkhudarian (1999-2000) and Vardan Khachatrian (2000-2008), and U.S. State Department Coordinators for U.S. assistance to Eurasia Bill Taylor (2000-2003) and Tom Adams (2004-2008).

Set up in 2000, USATF is an intergovernmental committee that meets twice a year to discuss U.S. assistance for Armenia's reforms and bilateral economic ties.

However, the volume of U.S. assistance to Armenia has declined from an average of $75million a year in 2004-2006 to about $50 million in 2007. Bilateral trade remained steady at an average of $125 million a year in 2004-2007, with U.S. exports to Armenia accounting for most of the turnover.

Item below was published in November 29, 2008 Armenian Reporter:

Open Sky agreement signed by Armenia and the United States
by Armen Hakobyan

- As part of the process of authorizing direct flights between the United States and Armenia, the two countries signed an Open Sky agreement in Washington on November 21.

Artyom Movsesian, director general of Armenia's Civil Aviation Agency, who was in Washington as part of the Armenian delegation to the U.S.-Armenia Task Force (USATF), signed the agreement with U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Daniel Fried.

Mr. Movsesian told the Armenian Reporter in an interview that "the agreement is fairly liberal and creates broad opportunities for cooperation with the U.S., where we have a large Armenian diaspora. Apart from that, the agreement gives aviation companies opportunities to implement flexible policies."

For actual flights to begin, Armenian and U.S. carriers must carry out feasibility studies: They must determine the aircraft they wish to use, the routes they wish to take, the frequency, and the price, Mr. Movsesian said.

On the Armenian side, the management of Armavia has stated on more than one occasion that the company is planning direct flights to Los Angeles with a refueling stop in Shannon, Ireland.

Before that can happen, however, the U.S. Federal Aviation Agency must, under the agreement, carry out studies to confirm that Armenia can fulfill flight security and aviation security demands.

Mr. Movsesian said the investigation would last at least six months. He noted that the representatives of the U.S. side have recently visited Armenia and met with him.

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