Good afternoon, Ladies and Gentlemen,
I have just had a very constructive exchange with President Sargsyan of Armenia whom I am pleased to welcome again here in the Berlaymont in Brussels.
This is an opportunity for me to reaffirm our strong commitment to stability and democracy in Armenia and our readiness to enhance our bilateral relations, including through increased EU financial and technical assistance to Armenia's reform efforts.
Since President Sargsyan's last visit in November 2008, we have seen continuing positive developments in our relationship as shown by the recent adoption of the negotiating directive for the EU-Armenia Association Agreement.
I have told President Sargsyan that the Commission is prepared to launch the Association Agreement negotiations as soon as next July.
An important part of this Agreement will be the negotiation on a bilateral Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area (DCFTA). But this could kick off only once Armenia will have fully addressed key trade-related recommendations made by the Commission last June.
I am confident that Armenia will intensify its efforts in this regard. The related economic benefits such as better investment climate, new jobs and growth are worth it. In fact this was a point highlighted also by the President of Armenia. He believes that those reforms are also in the interest of Armenia itself, independently of the negotiations with the EU.
We have also discussed the launching of negotiations on visa facilitation and readmission agreements. I fully understand the importance of these mobility issues for Armenia. And the Commission is willing to negotiate agreements on these issues. However, further technical negotiations with both Armenia and our own Member States are still needed.
On the regional front, I have assured President Sargsyan of our continued strong support for the process of normalization of relations between Armenia and Turkey. A historic step has been reached with the signature of the bilateral protocols and the momentum must not now be lost. I would like to ask both countries to continue their dialogue without preconditions and in a reasonable timeframe.
Another regional issue we have addressed today is the Nagorno-Karabakh peace talks where I hope we will see some progress soon through the ongoing negotiations of the OSCE Minsk Group.
I have informed President Sargsyan that the EU is ready to step up its efforts in support of the resolution of the conflict notably through the EU-funded programme of confidence building measures such as people-to-people contacts. I hope that President Sargsyan will support this programme.
Finally, I want to stress that we can be duly satisfied with our fast evolving and broadening relationship. I am looking forward to the next steps towards closer political association and deeper economic integration with Armenia.