Armenian-Turkish Relations, Karabakh Conflict to be Resolved Soon, Says Yovanovitch

YEREVAN (Combined Sources)–Armenian-Turkish relations and the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict will be resolved in the near future, U.S. Ambassador to Armenia Marie Yovanovitch said during her first press conference Thursday.

"The U.S. welcomes all regional initiatives meant for stability and economic welfare. My duty is to spare no effort for implementation of our plans," added Yovanovitch.

"An Ambassador in any state is a person who enjoys the confidence of the President and I will work to justify this confidence. As to possible changes of Ambassador after the November [US] presidential election, it’s premature to speak of that just yet," she said.

The new Ambassador arrived in Armenia on September 17. The position has been vacant since John Evans was recalled over his public recognition of the Armenian Genocide. The nomination of Marie Yovanovitch was approved by the Senate in August 2008.

Yovanovitch said that the US was encouraged by the meeting in June between the presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan and is confident that the Karabakh talks will resume following the presidential elections in Azerbaijan, scheduled to take place this month.

"Each conflict is unique and each should have its resolution. Aside from the principle of territorial integrity, there are other principles, such as non-use of force and the right of nations to self-determination. The US considers the principles of resolution of conflicts as dependent on geographical position and circumstances," explained Yovanovitch.

Meanwhile, Armenia’s Foreign Ministry Thursday denied reports circulating in the Azerbaijani media that Baku and Yerevan are engaged in three-way negotiations with Turkey over a Turkish proposal to resolve the conflict between the two over Nagorno-Karabakh. A spokesman for the Armenian Foreign Ministry said talks are continuing “on the basis of Madrid proposals in the framework of the OSCE Minsk Group.

The new ambassador, however, announced that the State Department was carefully considering Turkey’s recent overtures to become a mediator in the conflict resolution process.

"Being a member of the OSCE Minsk Group, Turkey is entitled to offer suggestions," said Yovanovitch, adding that her country wants peace and stability in the Caucasus.

As to the meeting between the Presidents of Armenia and Turkey, she said the US did not initiate the event. "The decision was taken by presidents Sarkisian and Gul and we welcome their courage."

Yovanovitch also said that the United States remains seriously concerned about the continuing imprisonment of Armenian opposition members and expects the authorities in Yerevan to close the criminal cases against them.

“We would urge the government to take action to close these cases in a manner that is open and transparent and fair,” said Yovanovitch. She said the government should differentiate between those individuals who “exercised their political rights” during and after the February 19 presidential election and those who engaged in violence.

According to Yovanovitch, the U.S. continues to believe that at least some of the opposition members were arrested and prosecuted for political reasons. “That is a cause of great concern, and it’s a concern that we have certainly shared with the government,” she said. “It’s a concern that we have also shared more publicly.”

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