By Emil DanielyanThe United States has had “fruitful” cooperation with Armenia this year and will continue to promote its economic development and democratization in 2003, the U.S. ambassador in Yerevan, John Ordway, said on Friday. He also pledged more U.S. efforts to find a “just and mutually acceptable solution” to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
“In terms of the partnership between our two countries, 2002 has been a fruitful year,” Ordway said in a New Year’s address to Armenians, assuring them that Washington “will continue to further the traditional ties that link Armenia and the United States.”
“We have worked with the Armenian government to develop the economy of Armenia. We have worked to strengthen the rule, to establish civil society and to improve the investment climate,” he said.
But Ordway added that there is still “a long way to go” in turning Armenia into an established democracy that offers equal opportunities to all of its citizens.
Armenia is a major per-capita recipient of U.S. economic assistance which has totaled about $1.5 billion since its independence. It is expected to get at least $90 million worth of aid in 2003. The past year also saw first-ever American military assistance to Yerevan in the amount of $4.4 million. Most of the money will be spent on upgrading communication facilities of the Armenian armed forces.
Ordway said the U.S. will continue to fight international terrorism jointly with Armenia and will remain deeply involved in the Karabakh peace process.
The Armenian leadership has backed the ongoing U.S. anti-terror drive and the 2000 military campaign in Afghanistan in particular. “Armenia was very forthcoming in offering very needed overflight rights [for U.S. military aircraft] and doing intelligence-sharing with the United States and, generally, everything that the U.S. has asked,” General Joseph Ralston, NATO’s American supreme allied commander in Europe, said during a recent visit to Yerevan.
Still, Armenia was briefly included earlier this month on a list of countries whose male nationals traveling to the United States must register with U.S. immigration authorities as part of the Bush administration’s domestic anti-terror measures. It was quickly removed from the blacklist following strong protests from the government in Yerevan and the influential Armenian-American community. It is still not clear why Armenia was initially included in the registration program.
In another embarrassment for the Armenian government, the U.S. State Department imposed in May 2002 sanctions against an Armenian biochemical factory accused of transferring sensitive equipment to Iran -- a country which Washington says sponsors international terrorism. Armenian customs authorities have since tightened export controls on all border crossings.