Obama Encourages Sargisian and Erdogan to Advance Rapprochement


President Serge Sargisian and President Barack Obama

Sargisian Stresses Importance of Genocide Recognition, Rejects ‘Language of Preconditions’ for Establishing Relations

WASHINGTON (RFE/RL) — US President Barack Obama said this week Armenia and Turkey should “make every effort” to advance the process of normalizing relations.
Obama made the remarks at a meeting with Armenian President Serge Sargisian on the sidelines of a nuclear security summit in Washington on April 12.

It followed a meeting between Sargisian and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan aimed at kick-starting the stalled reconciliation process.

Reports from the US capital said that the meeting lasted for about 80 minutes. Armenia’s and Turkey’s foreign ministers were also in attendance.

Before he left Ankara, Erdogan told reporters that “the priority issue [at the meeting] is developments regarding Armenia.”

Neither Sargisian nor Erdogan spoke to the press after their meeting.
Armenia and Turkey last October signed agreements to establish diplomatic relations and open their land border.

Following his meeting with Erdogan, Sargisian met with members of the Armenian community at the National Cathedral in Washington and told them he took a firm stand with Erdogan during their meeting.

“We are ready to have normal relations with all our neighbors but we will not tolerate someone to dictate conditions to us,” the Armenian leader said, according to remarks posted on his website. “I met this morning with the Turkish prime minister. Our position was and is always very clear: Turkey can’t talk with Armenian and
Armenians with the language of preconditions. We will simply not allow that.”
In his speech, Sargisian commended the Armenian-American community for its decades-long efforts at official US recognition of the genocide. “Nobody can stop the inevitable,” he said, signaling Yerevan’s continuing support for the latest genocide bill.
Sargisian also defended the Turkish-Armenian protocols, saying that those critics who claimed they would halt the genocide recognition process have been proven wrong. He also accused Turkey of making “doomed attempts” to cause a rift on the issue between Armenia and its worldwide Diaspora.

Sargisian addressed community activists at the Washington National Cathedral after laying flowers at the grave of Woodrow Wilson, America’s World War I-era president. He touted Wilson as “a true friend of the Armenian people” and “great statesman” who was the first to articulate the need for international recognition of the Armenian Genocide.
Sargisian also lauded the modern-day US for its “considerable role in the life of the Armenian people.”

During his visit to President Wilson’s tomb, Sargisian greeted Armenian Genocide survivors Rose Baboyian, Yeretsgeen Sirarpi Khoyan and Lousadzeen Tatarian, who presented the president with a letter urging him to continue the fight for Genocide recognition and stand up for the rights of the Armenian people. Following the wreath-laying ceremony, Sargisian stood solemnly as Armenian-American clergy offered prayers in memory of President Wilson and honored the victims and survivors of the Armenian Genocide. Amongst the clergy in attendance were Archbishop Oshagan Choloyan, Prelate of the Armenian Apostolic Church of Eastern US; Archbishop Khajag Barsamian, Primate of the Diocese of the Armenian Church of America (Eastern), and Archbishop Vicken Aykazian, Legate of the Diocese of the Armenian Church of America (Eastern), and representatives of the Armenian Catholic and Evangelical communities.

Sargisian added, “We are not going to make a subject of review the fact of genocide in any format” — a reference to the World War I-era mass killings of Armenians by Turkish forces — “or to pretend that Turkey can play any positive role in the negotiating process of Nagorno-Karabagh conflict resolution.”

Obama, Erdogan Meet

A spokesman for the National Security Council confirmed that Obama was scheduled to hold separate talks with Erdogan on April 13. The official said no trilateral meeting with Obama and the two leaders was planned.

Erdogan has indicated that his government continues to link the parliamentary ratification of the two Turkish-Armenian “protocols” with a breakthrough in the Nagorno-Karabagh peace process.

Hurriyet Daily News quoted him as saying that the US, Russian and French mediators co-chairing the OSCE Minsk Group should be “much more active” in trying to broker a Karabagh settlement.

Erdogan flew to Washington just days after sending Turkey’s Ambassador Namik Tan arrived back in the United States.

Tan was recalled to Ankara last month in protest against a US congressional committee’s approval of a draft resolution recognizing the 1915 massacres of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire as genocide, a label Ankara rejects.

Turkish officials say the Obama administration has assured Ankara that it will try to block further progress of the resolution. They also hope that Obama will again refrain from using the word “genocide” in his April 24 statement due on the 95th anniversary of the start of the mass killings and deportations.

“We received some satisfactory messages [from Washington,]” Tan told the Associated Press on April 9. “I hope there will be a new chapter.”