Armenia’s rapprochement with Turkey has not reached an impasse despite Ankara’s renewed linkage between the normalization of bilateral relations and a Nagorno-Karabakh settlement, a senior U.S. official said on Thursday.
Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Matthew Bryza also dismissed mounting domestic criticism of President Serzh Sarkisian’s conciliatory line on Turkey.
In an interview with RFE/RL, Bryza insisted that recent statements by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan do not preclude the implementation of a U.S.-backed “roadmap” to improving Turkish-Armenian relations that was announced by the two governments in late April. “Stay tuned, keep watching for additional statements by top officials in both Turkey and Armenia which hopefully will show the implementation is moving forward,” he told RFE/RL.
But Bryza acknowledged that there is at least some connection between Karabakh peace and the success of the Turkish-Armenian dialogue. “As we make progress, let’s say, on Nagorno-Karabakh, it’s easier to make progress on Turkey-Armenia,” he said. “As we make progress on Turkey-Armenia, it’s easier to make progress on Nagorno-Karabakh.
“It’s not that there are preconditions. There are no preconditions. There are commitments by the countries to do one or another set of issues.”
The Armenian leadership maintains that it has been discussing with Ankara only an unconditional normalization of relations and that the agreed roadmap makes no references to the unresolved Karabakh conflict. Erdogan has repeatedly stated, however, that Turkey will not establish diplomatic relations and open its border with Armenia unless the latter makes peace with Azerbaijan.
Neither side has publicized the “roadmap” yet. Bryza also declined to divulge its details. “I hope that it will be publicized soon,” he said.
The Turkish-Armenian deal was announced on the eve of the April 24 annual commemoration of more than one million Armenians massacred in the Ottoman Empire during World War One. Many in Armenia and its worldwide Diaspora believe the timing helped for U.S. President Barack Obama backtrack on his pledges to recognize the mass killings as genocide. Sarkisian’s critics also say the year-long rapprochement has earned Armenia no tangible benefits.
“Those people don’t understand what’s happening,” countered Bryza. “That is a mischaracterization of reality.”
“Armenia has neither won nor lost anything, Turkey has neither won nor lost anything, because the Turkey-Armenia agreement has not been implemented yet,” he said. “The sides are in the process of implementing the roadmap. Only then will there be benefits.”
“It’s time for the process to move forward,” he added. “I strongly agree with those critics who say the agreement needs to be implemented.”