By Tigran Avetisian
A senior U.S. diplomat called for the normalization of Turkish-Armenian relations and stressed the need for a quick resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict after meeting Armenia’s leaders in Yerevan on Friday.
Official Armenian sources said both issues were high on the agenda of Assistant Secretary of State Daniel Fried’s meetings with President Serzh Sarkisian and Prime Minister Tigran Sarkisian.
President Sarkisian told Fried that Armenia wants to deepen its relations with the United States because it considers them an “important element of regional stability.” Tigran Sarkisian, for his part, said he is optimistic about the future of U.S.-Armenian ties. The Armenian premier described as “extremely successful” his latest trip to Washington during which he met Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
Echoing statements by Cheney and Rice, Fried welcomed Turkish President Abdullah Gul’s historic visit to Armenia which highlighted an unprecedented thaw in strained relations between the two neighboring states. “I believe that today we are as close to the normalization of Turkish-Armenian relations as never before,” he told journalists. The Armenian and Turkish governments are truly committed to that, he said.
On Nagorno-Karabakh, Fried said the recent Russian-Georgian war added to the urgency of the ending the Armenian-Azerbaijani dispute.
Fried said he also discussed lingering political tensions in Armenia stemming from last February’s disputed presidential election and the subsequent government crackdown on the opposition. The diplomat, who also met Armenian opposition leaders, said he reiterated U.S. calls for the release of those opposition members who Washington believes were jailed for political reasons.