US Expects Quick Results from Turkish-Armenian Talks


Secretary of State Hillary Clinton with Philip Gordon by her side, speaking to the Turkish foreign minister

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton with Philip Gordon by her side, speaking to the Turkish foreign minister

NEW YORK (RFE/RL and ArmeniaNow) — US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton pressed Armenia and Turkey to complete the normalization of bilateral relations within a “reasonable” period of time as she met with the two countries’ foreign ministers late on Monday.

The Turkish-Armenian dialogue was a key focus of her separate talks with Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu and Armenia’s Eduard Nalbandian held on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York.

Clinton praised both governments for their “strong commitment” to pushing forward the process hailed by the international community and United States in particular.

“I want to reiterate our very strong support for the normalization process that is going on between Armenia and Turkey, which we have long said should take place without preconditions and within a reasonable timeframe,” she said after meeting Nalbandian.

Clinton later delivered a similar message to Davutoglu, according to US officials cited by Western news agencies. “When we say reasonable ‘time frame,’ we mean just that, that  it’s not just the process that we want to see,” US Assistant Secretary of State Philip Gordon was reported to tell journalists. “We welcome the process, but we also want to see a conclusion to the process and that’s what we’re underscoring when we say that.”

The US officials’ message should have been heartening for Yerevan, which has long complained about Turkish linkage between the normalization of Turkish-Armenian ties and a resolution of the Nagorno-Karabagh conflict acceptable to Azerbaijan. Armenian leaders fear that Ankara could still avoid implementing two fence-mending agreements with Yerevan if international efforts to settle the dispute yield no breakthrough in the coming months.

The agreements, which envisage the establishment of diplomatic relations and the reopening of the Turkish-Armenian border, are due to be signed by October 14. The documents need to be ratified by the parliaments of both countries before they can take effect.

According to the Armenian Foreign Ministry, Nalbandian thanked Clinton for Washington’s strong support for the ongoing Turkish-Armenian rapprochement that began shortly after President Serge Sargisian took office in April 2008. Clinton underscored that support when she telephoned Sargisian to discuss the process on September 19. It was their second phone conversation in a month.

In Gordon’s words, Washington hopes that Sargisian will accept Turkish President Abdullah Gul’s invitation to watch with him the return match of the two countries’ national football teams that will be played in the Turkish city of Bursa on October 14. “We think it would be a good thing if he attended it, reciprocating the attendance of the Turkish president of the match when it was in Armenia,” the diplomat said.

“This is a difficult process that faces some political opposition in both places and it’s hard for both governments,” added Gordon. “It shouldn’t wait for other things to get done, or be linked to other things. It should go ahead.”

Nalbandian sounded cautiously optimistic on that score in his speech at the General Assembly earlier on Friday. “The process of the normalization of the Armenian-Turkish relations … promises to bear fruit despite all difficulties,” he said.

Opposition Blasts Text of Armenia-Turkey Deal

However, an opposition faction at the National Assembly believes that the text of the initialed protocols between Armenia and Turkey is flawed and needs to be edited before signing and stands by its conviction that a public referendum on the documents is warranted.

While the Heritage Party is for the establishment of diplomatic relations between Armenia and Turkey, it nonetheless considers the expression “opening of the borders” to be wrong and holds that the decision of the authorities not to hold a referendum is wrong as well.

At a press conference on Tuesday, the Heritage faction’s representative Larisa Alaverdyan said that it is necessary to put into circulation the following expression: “Turkey lifting the blockades of Armenia.”

“We say ‘opening of the border, and the impression is that we were the ones who closed the border. Meanwhile, it was Turkey that started Armenia’s blockade,” Alaverdyan said.

According to Alaverdyan, the protocols lack pragmatism.

“The authorities always blame the opposition, saying that they and their announcements are naive, whereas, these protocols are so far from being pragmatic. They are the results of distorted idealism, and the Heritage Party does not reject the process, it rather suggests making some constructive steps,” added Alaverdyan.

The opposition faction suggests holding a referendum, because the Law of Armenia on the Referendum is defined for such cases. “What stops the authorities from holding a referendum? Discussion of the initialed protocols can be considered to be a discussion only if our executive authorities agree that the suggestions, made as a result of the communication with the public should also be taken into consideration,” said Alaverdyan.

Alaverdyan challenged Foreign Minister Eduard Nalbandian’s statement that it is no longer possible to make changes in the initialed protocols.

“All these possibilities are clearly described in the Armenian Law on International Treaties. If a country makes a suggestion of changes, then the other side not only must get an opportunity to discuss those changes, but also to make its own suggestions,” said Alaverdyan.