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By Astghik Bedevian in Prague
A senior U.S. official spoke of favorable signals for settling relations between Armenia and Turkey as he answered questions from lawmakers Wednesday.

Assistant Secretary of State Daniel Fried, in particular, said in Congress: “It was interesting and important that the foreign ministers of both countries exchanged greetings. When there was a new Armenian foreign minister, his Turkish counterpart sent an official letter of congratulations. There are many Turks who are looking ahead to better relations and we’re encouraging them to do that.”

“We hope that the relations [between Armenia and Turkey] can be normalized and normalized quickly,” Fried added.

Fried also responded to a query from congressmen about why President George W. Bush does not use the term ‘genocide’ in his April 24 messages to describe the 1915 mass killings of Armenians in Ottoman Turkey.

“The United States and the president have never denied any of these events. The president’s policy has been since 2001, like the previous administrations, that we don’t use the term because we don’t think that the use of that term would contribute to a reconciliation between Armenia and Turkey,” Fried said.

To a query of a congressman whether Azerbaijan was preparing for a new war, Fried said that despite “unwelcome” rhetoric by some Azeri officials “Azerbaijan is not preparing for war.”

“It is participating with Armenians in a search for solutions. The two presidents have met recently. This was a useful meeting and although we consider the rhetoric to be unhelpful, we do not consider Azerbaijan to be preparing for war. We are, however, keeping that under constant review.”

Before answering congressmen’s questions, the Assistant Secretary of State made a speech during the hearings on the U.S. policy in the Caucasus in which he presented some observations on the three countries of the region.

In regards to Armenia, Fried, in particular, said: “In the short term Armenia’s greatest challenge is to strengthen its democratic institutions and processes, including respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, and regain democratic momentum lost after the significantly flawed presidential election in February and its violent aftermath.”
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