Top US Envoy Urges Progress in Stalled Armenia-Turkey Talks

 

US Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Philip Gordon gives a press conference with US Ambassador to Armenia Marrie L. Yovanovitch on June 9, 2009.

US Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Philip Gordon gives a press conference with US Ambassador to Armenia Marrie L. Yovanovitch on June 9, 2009.

YEREVAN (Combined Sources)—The new top U.S. diplomat in charge of European and Eurasian affairs on Tuesday urged Armenia and Turkey to make progress in stalled reconciliation talks aimed at normalizing relations and re-opening their border as he visited Yerevan on the first leg of his first regional tour.

Philip Gordon, the US assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs, who took office last month, was due to visit the two other ex-Soviet republics of the South Caucasus, Georgia and Azerbaijan, on Wednesday and Thursday.

“I have only been in office for two weeks, but it seemed to me that there are such important and even historic developments going on in Armenia and the region that I should try to come out here as soon as possible,” Gordon told journalists before proceeding to Georgia.

While in Yerevan, the US Envoy held what he called “excellent and productive talks” with President Serzh Sarkisian and Foreign Minister Eduard Nalbandian.

According to official Armenian sources, the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and the Turkish-Armenian rapprochement were high on the agenda of his Yerevan talks. Also discussed was the current state of U.S.-Armenian relations. Sarkisian was quoted by his office as telling the visiting U.S. diplomat that his government finds their expansion “extremely important.”

Speaking at a news conference following his talks, Gordon reaffirmed Washington’s strong support for the year-long negotiations between Armenia and Turkey and an unconditional normalization of their relations. But he also criticized the Armenian authorities’ handling of the May 31 municipal elections

prra09060905f“Turkey-Armenia normalization would benefit Turkey, it would benefit Armenia and it would benefit the entire region. Because of that we don’t think it should be linked to anything else,” he said, commenting on Turkish leaders’ renewed linkage between the reopening of the Turkish-Armenian border and a resolution of the Karabakh conflict.

Gordon also stressed that normalization “should proceed within a reasonable time frame.” That “means the process can’t be infinite,” he said, adding that Washington is closely watching regional developments. “It can’t go on forever. I think the parties understand that.”

“It’s not for me to tell the parties exactly what that means,” added the U.S. official. “But I think both sides do appreciate that they need to move forward, and I think they are, and I think they will.”

The two countries said in April that they had agreed to a road map for normalizing relations, but Turkey has stalled the talks since the announcement.

Shortly after the agreement was revealed, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that Turkey would not establish diplomatic relations with Armenia until a resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict favoring Azerbaijan was reached.

Since then, the Prime Minister has consistently repeated that precondition, leveraging it to gain a role for Turkey in the ongoing Karabakh negotiation process mediated by the OSCE Minsk Group.

Many analysts close to the issue say the still unpublicized “roadmap” was a ploy by Turkey to get U.S. President Barack Obama to backtrack on his earlier pledges to recognize the Armenian Genocide in his April 24 statement. Ankara had repeatedly warned Washington that an official recognition of its crime against the Armenian people would torpedo reconciliation efforts with Armenia.

Washington had backed the reconciliation effort, with President Barack Obama calling on Armenia and Turkey to build on fence-mending efforts both during a visit to Turkey in April and in a statement to the Armenian-American community on the 94th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide. Obama, however, failed to properly recognize the Genocide, despite his repeated campaign pledges to do so.

Armenia, for its part, has criticized Erdogan for making the normalization of relations conditional on a Nagorno-Karabakh settlement, saying that such statements could hamper both the Armenian-Azerbaijani, as well as the Armenian-Turkish negotiations.

Speaking after talks with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Washington late last week, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said Ankara remains “fully committed to our normalization process with Armenia.” Clinton, for her part said, “We’re well aware that this is difficult…It requires patience and perseverance.”

Gordon also discussed with Sarkisian and Nalbandian U.S. economic assistance to Armenia under the Millennium Challenge Account (MCA) program. Some of that assistance worth $236 million has been suspended by Washington because of Yerevan’s poor democracy and human rights records.

A statement by the Armenian Foreign Ministry said Nalbandian briefed Gordon on “steps taken by the Armenian authorities to implement democratic reforms.” It did not specify whether those steps include the May 31 municipal elections in Yerevan condemned as fraudulent by the Armenian opposition.

Gordon indicated that the U.S. does not consider the polls free and fair. “The results were only tallied up a couple of days ago, and so we don’t have a formal statement or judgment right now,” he said. “But I have heard reports of irregularities and problems with the election. That wasn’t up to the standard that we would like to see.”

The US Envoy also visited the Dzidzernagapert Genocide Memorial Complex, according to Armenpress.

Marie Yovanovitch, the U.S. ambassador in Yerevan also present at the news conference, said a more detailed U.S. assessment of the polls based on the findings of U.S. Embassy observers will be released “in the next couple of days.” “We saw a number of instances of irregularities, fraud, and intimidation not only in one or two districts but throughout the city during voting and also during the count,” she said.

Gordon, who took office last month, was due to visit the two other ex-Soviet republics of the South Caucasus, Georgia and Azerbaijan, on Wednesday and Thursday.

“I have only been in office for two weeks, but it seemed to me that there are such important and even historic developments going on in Armenia and the region that I should try to come out here as soon as possible,” Gordon told journalists before proceeding to Georgia.

 

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One Comment;

  1. Vahe said:

    Patriots and intelectuals of diaspora have realized and awakened by the tricks of Obama and American ruling parties. Unfortunately Armenian Government’s desparate meddling with Washington/Ankara/Moscow is not demonstration of clever policies or prolonging the status quo, but it is mere desperation , comming from lack of national support of masses both in Armenia and diaspora.
    The factor of Washington’s influence specifically in Armenia is not of an importance , whereas should have been totally ignored and pushed aside.
    Once a nation should stand for its dignity and honour. National pride is an element that should be thaught and nurtured.
    It should be embarrasment for every armenian that RA president wastes time to meet a washington aparatchik “Philip Gordon” who is anti-armenian and his career back ground proves his evil conducts.
    Finally armenians should accept the fact that any country who ignore and reject the fact of Genocide as turks do , is not friend of Armenia and whom ever support our enemy can not be friend of Armenia.

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