WASHINGTON (RFE/RL)–U.S. President Barack Obama expressed his support for the Armenian leader’s efforts to achieve normalization of relations with Turkey as the two spoke on the phone recently.
As reported by the Armenian president’s press office, the phone conversation took place during President Serzh Sarkisian’s stop in Los Angeles, California, where he was on Sunday as part of his continuing tour of major Diaspora Armenian communities to discuss his latest initiative for Armenia to end the century-old feud with its big neighbor and historical foe, Turkey.
Obama reportedly reaffirmed the United States’ official position that Armenian-Turkish normalization should proceed without any preconditions and should not be linked to the settlement of the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh.
During the phone talk with Obama, Sarkisian also reportedly thanked the U.S. president for “the huge mediatory work” conducted by the United States as part of the Minsk Group of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) that advances international efforts on settling the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. As reported by his press office, Sarkisian emphasized Armenia’s readiness to move forward on the way of achieving a peaceful settlement of the problem. He said the basis of this settlement should be “the decision by Nagorno-Karabakh’s people about their ultimate legal status by the free expression of will, which is the basis of the Madrid principles of settlement presented by the Minsk Group mediators.”
Sarkisian was quoted as expressing his gratitude to the U.S. leader for the support in the process of Armenian-Turkish normalization and also as presenting his impressions of the Diaspora tour.
According to the release for the media, the Armenian president emphasized that “the concerns and fears of the Armenian Diaspora regarding the process are natural, considering the fact that the Armenian people was subjected to genocide by Ottoman Turkey, about which Obama has repeatedly mentioned in his public speeches.”
Sarkisian last week embarked on a weeklong tour of major Diaspora communities, including Paris, New York, Los Angeles, Beirut and Rostov-on-Don, to try and gain support for the beleaguered Turkey-Armenia Protocols, which have been met with resounding rebuke by Armenians around the world. Sarkisian has already completed his meetings with prominent Diaspora members in Europe and the United States and is in Lebanon now, after which he will fly to Southern Russia.
More than 12,000 Armenian Americans from throughout California converged on the Beverly Hilton Hotel to protest Sarkisian on Sunday. Hundreds more gathered at the Genocide Memorial in Montebello the next morning to stand guard the monument in the case Sarkisian attempted to use the site for a photo-opp. Thousands similarly protested the president when he visited New York, forming a picket line at his hotel. The mass demonstrations against the president began in Paris Friday, where a thousand Armenians who were holding a peaceful sit-in at the Gomidas genocide memorial were violently attacked by Police, clearing the way for Sarkisian to walk u to the statue to get his photo taken.