18 September 2008 - NATO PA PRESIDENT JOSÉ LELLO IN VISIT TO ARMENIA [press release]
José Lello, President of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, has concluded an official visit to Armenia which took place on 17 September 2008.
In a tightly packed, one-day schedule, President Lello discussed Armenia's perspectives on foreign and security policy with top governmental and parliamentary leaders, including President Serzh Sargsyan (pictured below - right - with President Lello).
"This is a particularly timely visit to this region, although it was planned well before last month's conflict between Georgia and Russia", said President Lello. "The Assembly has a long-standing interest in the South Caucasus, and the overall security situation in the region will inevitably feature prominently in the Assembly's forthcoming annual session in Valencia. However, I also wanted to learn about Armenia's views on its ongoing cooperation with NATO and how this features in Armenia's overall foreign and defence policy."
Armenia's relations with its neighbouring countries featured prominently during discussions, and President Lello sounded an optimistic note after his meetings.
"Governmental and parliamentary leaders clearly want to move forwards. For instance, there is a genuine desire to make progress on Nagorno-Karabakh. And what I find particularly encouraging is that I felt a similar sentiment earlier this year when I visited Azerbaijan.
"Armenia's leaders are also open to Turkey's efforts to break regional deadlocks and there is a clear recognition of the value of developing more constructive relations with Turkey.
"There is a need for open-mindedness and fresh thinking in the South Caucasus. President Sargsyan's innovative 'football diplomacy', which led to President Gül's historic visit to Armenia, is a sign of that new approach. Furthermore, as I told President Sargsyan, I came to know Turkey's President, Abdullah Gül, well when he was a member of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, and I have great confidence in him."
As well as the hour-long meeting with President Sargsyan, President Lello's visit included meetings with Foreign Minister Mr. Edvard Nalbandyan, Defence Minister Mr. Seyran Ohanyan, Deputy Speaker Mrs Arevik Petrosyan, and the Chairman of National Assembly's Committee on Foreign Affairs, Mr. Armen Rustamyan. Mr Lello also met leading members of parliament from factions of the National Assembly.
Mr Lello concluded his visit by thanking Artur Aghabekyan, the leader of the Armenian delegation to the Assembly, for organizing an outstanding programme and for being an excellent host.