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Armenia: Conference Due To Discuss Revival Of Silk Road

London, 18 August 1998 (RFE/RL) -- Armenia is to host a conference in October to discuss plans to revive the historic Silk Road, the ancient trading route that ran across the Caucasus and Central Asia linking the two civilizations of Rome and China.

The "Conference on the Revival of the Great Silk Road" will be staged in Yerevan from October 14-18. It will focus on the practical and technical aspects of reopening the old trade route.

The event will be the second major Silk Road conference to be staged within a few weeks. Azerbaijan has already announced plans for a summit in Baku on 7-8 September that will bring together more than 30 delegations from almost all the countries that lie along the Silk Road or that have an interest in its development.

The organizers of the Yerevan conference say it will discuss a wide range of issues related to the development of multilateral cooperation between the Caucasus and Asian nations.

Organizers include the Armenia-Kazakhstan Society, Armenian Society of Cultural Communications with Foreign Countries, the National Academy of Sciences and Yerevan State University.

Topics for discussion include the cultural-historical roots of mutual relations between the peoples of the Caucasus and Asia; how to develop new communications channels across the region; and practical recommendations for stepping up regional cooperation.

The organizers say representatives from throughout the Caucasus and Asia region will be invited to Yerevan, although they do not list participants. (Armenia and its Caucasus neighbor, Azerbaijan, have been locked in a bitter conflict over the Nagorno-Karabakh enclave.)

Kazakhstan is expected to send high-level delegations to Yerevan from its Academy of Sciences and other organizations.

The original 6,400 km Silk Road ran along caravan routes across Central Asia and the Caucasus and on to the eastern Mediterranean. A drive to establish a modern-day equivalent began after the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union which saw the lifting of closed borders and the re-establishment of old trading patterns.

Caucasus and Central Asian governments are keen to establish a modern communications system -- highways, railroads, airports -- because the region is landlocked, lacking access to an open sea.

The Americans and Europeans back the idea of a new Silk Road because the Caspian is the site of rich oil and gas fields and needs better communications to get its energy exports to world markets. Their main interest is the route of proposed oil export pipelines.

The Yerevan event is expected to attract representatives of many western firms wanting to do business in the area, as well as U.S. and European scientists interested in regional problems. It will include an international scientific conference; a trade fair including local handicrafts; roundtable discussions; and a cultural program including an exhibition reflecting the history of the Silk Road.

Participants will focus on the development of tourism in the region, and ways to revive and develop a sense of the rich cultural legacy of the peoples of the Caucasus and Central Asian region.

Note: Organizers can be contacted on (telephone) 8852 581241 (fax) 8852 506202 or (e-mail)