Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 121

Armenian President Robert Kocharian, Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze and Azerbaijani Prime Minister Artur Rasizade–who represented the convalescent President Haidar Aliev–signed yesterday in Luxembourg a joint declaration with the European Union (EU). The quadripartite summit aimed, first, to promote regionwide pacification and cooperation in the South Caucasus, and, second, to crown the ratification of the EU’s bilateral “Agreements on Partnership and Cooperation” with Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia. Signed in 1996, those agreements have since been ratified by the parliaments of all the EU countries and the three South Caucasus countries, and will come into force on July 1. The agreements cover relations between the EU and each of the three countries in economic, political, scientific-technological and other areas and institutionalize those bilateral relationships by creating joint committees on cooperation in those areas.

The quadripartite declaration stresses the importance of the South Caucasus to both Europe and the international economic system. It expresses the sides’ commitment to: developing transit routes between Europe, the South Caucasus and Central Asia; promoting international trade, investment and resource development in the South Caucasus countries; harmonizing their internal legislation with that of EU countries; and developing relations between the South Caucasus countries and European institutions. Noting the link between economic development and conflict resolution, the declaration commits the EU to providing postconflict reconstruction aid to Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia. It calls for the restoration of transportation links between the three countries–notably the Baku-Nakhichevan, Yerevan-Julfa and Abkhazia-Tbilisi-Yerevan railroads–to promote intraregional cooperation and build political confidence among the parties to local conflicts.

An accompanying joint news conference by Kocharian, Shevardnadze and Rasizade highlighted their countries’ common aspiration to draw close to Europe economically and politically. But the joint appearance also exposed differences between Armenia and Azerbaijan over Karabakh and, more broadly, over national priorities. Kocharian described regional cooperation as a prerequisite to resolving that conflict. Rasizade called for steps toward conflict resolution to be taken first, pointing out that the idled railroads from Baku to Nakhichevan and from Yerevan to Julfa cross Azerbaijani territories seized by Armenian Karabakh forces. Shevardnadze staked out an intermediate position, stressing the interrelationship between economic cooperation, confidence building and conflict resolution (Turan, Noyan-Tapan, Prime-News, June 22).