U.S. Prompts Turkey to Open Border with Armenia

WASHINGTON (Combined Sources)–The United States praised last weekend’s visit by Turkish President Abdullah Gul to Yerevan, but reiterated that it would continue to push Turkey to open its land border with Armenia, the Turkish Daily News (TDN) reported on Thursday.

"We were delighted that the president of Armenia reached out to President Gul and invited him to Yerevan and delighted also that President Gul accepted the invitation," assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs Daniel Fried told the House Foreign Affairs Committee at a hearing on the recent Russia-Georgia conflict.

He said the United States had been encouraging Armenia and neighboring Turkey and Azerbaijan to work toward settling their differences and that his policy would remain in place.

"I’m glad that we have an ambassador going out there soon and we’d certainly hope to see Armenia’s relative isolation end," Fried said. "We want its borders open and its relations improved and we’re going to work to that end,” he was quoted by the TDN as saying.

The border between the two countries has been closed since 1993, when Turkey imposed an illegal embargo on Armenia for supporting Nagorno-Karabakh’s independence movement from Azerbaijan, a close Turkish ally.

In a first effort to break the ice, Gul briefly visited Yerevan last week on the occasion of a World Cup qualifying soccer match between the two countries’ national teams, where he met with Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian.

Both presidents said they were happy with this first contact and pledged to strive to improve relations.

Meanwhile, Turkish Foreign Minister Ali Babacan and US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had a telephone conversation Wednesday in which they discussed the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

According to Turkish Foreign Ministry Spokesman Burak Ozugergin, the recent developmen’s in the Caucasus, including the conflict in Georgia and Turkish President Abdullah Gul’s visit to Yerevan were high on the agenda of their discussion.

Babacan, Ozugergin said, briefed Rice on his visit to Armenia and the outcome of talks with his Armenian counterpart Edward Nalbandian.

"Babacan reiterated that Turkey supports the Minsk process which aims at finding a solution to the Nagorno Karabakh conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia,” Ozugergin explained. “He said that such a solution would have a positive impact on Turkey-Armenia relations. Meanwhile, Rice said that they would support Turkey’s regional initiatives.”

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