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YEREVAN, FEBRUARY 18, ARMENPRESS: In an interview to a Russian Regnum news agency, Great Britain’s ambassador to Armenia, Thorda Abbot-Watt said her government hailed the EU decision to include Armenia’s into its New Neighborhood initiative, adding also that political relations between Armenia and Great Britain remain to be close. She said the first progress from the Neighborhood Policy is expected this year.

She said Great Britain will continue to support the activity of the OSCE Minsk Group. “I hope Sir Brian Fall, a special UK representative for the South Caucasus will visit Yerevan this spring to meet with top Armenian leaders and discuss plans for further strengthening of bilateral ties,” she said.

The ambassador said the embassy will continue to work for implementation of development programs targeting two Armenian provinces of Tavush and Gegharkunik. She said the programs will be officially launched on February 21.

She also reiterated that the Government of the United Kingdom has offered to pay 10% of Armenia’s World Bank debt repayments until 2015. The British Department for International Development (DFID) will pay the money into a World Bank trust fund. The International Development Association (the World Bank agency which provides funding on concessional terms to the poorest developing countries) will in turn reduce the repayments which Armenia makes over the next ten years.

The British Government have offered this financial help in recognition of the difficulties which low income countries face in trying to reduce poverty while at the same time service their international debt. The objective is to free additional resources to enable Armenia to achieve its development goals. Armenia is one of five countries to benefit in this way, all chosen in recognition that they have sound public expenditure policies in place which will ensure that the money saved will be targeted towards poverty reduction. The other countries are Mongolia, Vietnam, Nepal and Sri Lanka.

Armenia is due to repay the World Bank US$ 8 million, US$ 11 million and US$ 12 million in 2005, 2006 and 2007 respectively. The United Kingdom contribution will be 10% of this – US$800,000, US$1.1million and US$1.2million. Over the ten years of the initiative (until 2015), the total United Kingdom contribution will be just under US$20 million.

The ambassador also downplayed an opinion spread among Armenian political circles that a resolution adopted by PACE on the basis of a report by a British delegate to PACE David Atkinson, perceived here as “anti-Armenian,” reflects the position of Great Britain.

“Though the report, on the basis of which PACE adopted the resolution was drafted by a member of the British Parliament, it reflects Atkinson’s personal views, but not the position of the British government. In the first place we are all interested in the peaceful resolution of the Nagorno Karabagh conflict, as it blocks the economic development of the region,” she concluded.

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