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Caucasus: World Bank To Lead Efforts To Rebuild Nagorno-Karabakh

By Harry Tamrazian

Yerevan, 7 March 2001 (RFE/RL) -- The U.S. State Department's coordinator for aid to CIS nations says that the World Bank will lead international efforts to rebuild the Nagorno-Karabakh region once the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the enclave is resolved.

Speaking to an RFE/RL correspondent in Yerevan yesterday, ambassador Bill Taylor said the World Bank would first assess the region's needs:

"The World Bank is preparing to do a needs assessment. The World Bank is preparing a team, an international team, to come to the region, to come to Armenia, to come to Nagorno-Karabakh, to come to Azerbaijan, to look at the needs, the requirements that would be necessary if there is an agreement, if there is a peace agreement solved."

Taylor said the assessment of the World Bank experts would serve as a basis for a donors' conference sponsored by the bank. He also said that the U.S.-Armenian joint task force set up several years ago had this week discussed assembling resources needed for rebuilding the Karabakh region.

Taylor, who now heads the U.S. delegation to the joint task force, spoke to our correspondent after meeting with his Armenian counterpart, Finance Minister Vartan Khachatrian.

The presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan, Robert Kocharian and Heidar Aliev, met in Paris Sunday and Monday (March 4-5) in another effort to achieve progress in reaching a solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. It was their 15th such meeting in two years.

Neither leader made any public comment after the meeting, held under the aegis of French President Jacques Chirac, and no breakthroughs were reported. But some Western diplomats have been quoted as saying a final peace accord could be reached by the end of the year.

A six-year war in and near Karabakh that ended in a ceasefire in 1994 cost tens of thousands of lives and created some 800,000 Azerbaijani refugees. The region is now entirely inhabited by ethnic Armenians.

At a joint press conference with Finance Minister Khachatrian today, Taylor said that World Bank President James Wolfensohn will chair a special conference in May on investment in Armenia. He said the New York meeting will bring together what he described as "a wide range of investors" who want to learn about the government and the private sector's plans for investment in Armenia.

Taylor said that the main focus of the two-day Yerevan meeting of the joint task force had been improving Armenia's business and investment climate, notably by reforming the taxation system and fighting corruption. He said that the U.S. delegation had seen improvements in tax reform and the general business climate in Armenia.