Clinton Encouraged by Armenia-Turkey Ties

WASHINGTON (Asbarez)–During a briefing at the House Foreign Affairs Committee Wednesday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton sounded optimistic on Armenia-Turkey relations, as well as a resolution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict in response to questions posed by two members.

“I have been very encouraged by the bold steps that have recently been taken by Turkish and Armenian leaders to reconcile their countries with each other and their shared and painful past, said Clinton in response to a query from Rep. Robert Wexler (D-Fla.), who has continuously opposed the Genocide resolution in Congress.

“I believe the steps that Turkey and Armenia are taking toward normalizing relations and opening their borders will foster a better environment for confronting that shared tragic history. The Turkish and Armenian governments sought US support and encouragement of reconciliation efforts and following that request both the president and I have supported them fully,” added Clinton.

As for Karabakh Clinton hinted that a deal may be forthcoming in coming months.

“We have also assured the government of Azerbaijan that we will intensify our efforts to resolve the conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh and other outstanding issues between Azerbaijan and Armenia. There is a Minsk process, as you know, that we are going to be deeply engaged in; We already are. We’ve sent a State Department official to Azerbaijan, I think two times in the last three weeks, and we hope there will be some resolution in the next months,” added Clinton.

Last month, Wexler and his colleagues circulated a letter in which they urged members of Congress to not pass H.Res. 252–the Armenian Genocide bill–given the dialogue that has begun between Turkey and Armenia. Wexler is the co-chairman of the US-Turkey Friendship Group in the House.

Armenian Caucus member Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.) also queried Clinton on an issue of interest to the Armenian-American community.

“The Bush Administration tried many times to cut aid for Armenia. I hope we seen an increase and I hope that the administration would either eliminate military assistance to Azerbaijan or, at least, maintain parity with Armenia and Azerbaijan as to military aid,” said Sherman, whose inquiry was unanswered for lack of time.

Meanwhile, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Matthew Bryza insisted on Wednesday that Turkey’s leadership remains committed to normalizing ties with Armenia and that the two sides are still “working very hard” to achieve that objective. Bryza held what he described as “very fruitful” talks in Ankara over the weekend.

“I had some very fruitful discussions in Turkey where it became clear to me how serious Turkey is about normalizing relations with Armenia,” Bryza told RFE/RL in Yerevan. “It’s a very complex mix of issues in Turkey. There are strong opinions in Turkey as in Armenia about whether or not to go forward, whether or not other issues need to be involved.”

“What I can say is that I sense that the top leaders in Turkey really are committed to opening a completely new historical and positive phase in relations with Armenia in pursuit of a common Anatolian home,” he said.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has repeatedly stated this month that the 16-year Turkish economic blockade of Armenia will not be lifted without a Karabakh settlement that would satisfy Azerbaijan.

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