US Urges Ankara,Yerevan to Push Forward Reconciliation

ANKARA (Hurriyet)–A senior American diplomat Tuesday urged Turkey and Armenia not to halt the reconciliation process started by President Abdullah Gul’s historic visit to Armenia in early September following a formal invitation by his Armenian counterpart.

Daniel Fried, the US Assistant Secretary State for European and Eurasian Affairs, held a three-hour meeting with Ertugrul Apakan, the undersecretary of the Turkish Foreign Ministry, Tuesday following his visits to Armenia and Georgia last week.

“I had the opportunity to meet with President Sarkisian in Yerevan,” Fried told a group of Turkish journalist Tuesday. “My message was this: We support the process of Turkish-Armenian reconciliation ; It should not stop there.”

Fried described Sarkisian as “courageous” for extending an invitation to Gul to watch the Turkey-Armenia national football match with him, and Gul as “wise” for accepting it. “We hope that Turkey and Armenia continue to work together,” he said, underlining that Washington is keen on seeing the normalization of ties between the two countries.

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. Ankara has maintained the blockade will remain as long as Armenia’supports the self determination of the people of Nagorno-Karabakh and continues to seek international recognition of the Armenian Genocide.

Noting that there were serious obstacles and challenges in front of Turkey and Armenia if they wished to improve ties, Fried said he was still optimistic since “there’s a hopeful moment. It’s more possible than it would be in the past,” he said.

Pointing out the process would be challenging for both countries as there would always be critical voices trying to undermine the process, he emphasized “real leadership is needed in these momen’s. Sometimes taking risks is the highest realism. And it’s the leadership.”

On Nagorno Karabakh, Fried said the OSCE Minsk Group, currently spearheading negotiations between Armenia and Azerbaijan, has made important improvemen’s, but underlined that he did not want to be overly optimistic on the issue.

“It’s of critical importance that we see solution to the regional problems,” he said. Fried and Apakan also discussed the Georgia-Russia row, energy issues, ongoing Cyprus talks, the Balkans, Afghanistan and Iran.

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