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By Anna Saghabalian
Argentina’s Foreign Minister Rafael Antonio Bielsa wrapped up on Wednesday an official visit to Armenia which he said will help to strengthen relations between the two nations.

Bielsa met with President Robert Kocharian, Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian and other senior Armenian officials during the two-day trip. Oskanian said the talks focused on bilateral ties and the situation in the region.

“We also discussed some global issues such as reform of the United Nations as well as our cooperation in international organizations,” he told a joint news conference with his Argentine counterpart.

Bielsa admitted that the existence of an influential Armenian community in the South American country is a key factor behind warm relations established by the two governments. “Armenians living in Argentina feel themselves full-fledged Argentinians and I kind of felt myself an Armenian during this visit,” he said.

Bielsa also confirmed that his government has decided to open an embassy in Armenia and is already looking for a building in Yerevan. Armenia already has a diplomatic mission in Buenos Aires.

Meeting ob Bielsa on Tuesday, Kocharian called for increased economic cooperation between the two countries. He cited the example of Yerevan’s Zvartnots international airport, which is managed by a company belonging to Eduardo Eurnekian, an Argentinian billionaire of Armenian descent.

Eurnekian’s Corporacion America group has embarked on a massive reconstruction of Zvartnots in accordance with a 30-year management contract signed with the Armenian government in 2002. The Argentine tycoon was in Yerevan on Wednesday and showed Bielsa a new terminal which is currently under construction and other airport facilities.

“The construction will result in an airport meeting all international standards,” Bielsa told reporters afterward.

Argentina is one of 16 countries around the world that have recognized the 1915-1918 massacres of Armenians in Ottoman Turkey as a genocide, a fact stressed by the deputy speaker of Armenia’s parliament, Vahan Hovannisian, at a meeting with Bielsa on Tuesday. Hovannisian also thanked Buenos Aires for supporting Yerevan’s position on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict at the UN General Assembly.

(Photolur photo: Eurnekian, right, showing Bielsa around at Zvartnots.)
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