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Obama Vows ‘Vigorous Support’ For Turkish-Armenian Normalization


U.S. - US President Barack Obama addresses the nation on Afghanistan at the United States Military Academy, West Point, NY, 01Dec2009

U.S. - US President Barack Obama addresses the nation on Afghanistan at the United States Military Academy, West Point, NY, 01Dec2009

U.S. President Barack Obama has pledged to continue to press for an unconditional normalization of Turkish-Armenian relations which he believes should be completed within a “reasonable timeframe.”

Obama hailed the U.S.-backed dialogue between the two nations as “historic,” in a letter to Hirair Hovnanian, chairman of the Armenian Assembly of America, that was publicized by the influential advocacy group late on Thursday.

“I agree that normalization between Armenia and Turkey should move forward without preconditions and within a reasonable timeframe,” he said, echoing statements by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and other U.S. officials.

“We will continue to vigorously support the normalization effort in the months ahead,” added Obama.

The letter dated November 20 came in response to a September 9 joint appeal to Obama from Hovnanian and the leaders of the Armenian General Benevolent Union and two U.S dioceses of the Armenian Apostolic Church. The signatories voiced support for the fence-mending Turkish-Armenian agreements and said Washington should get Ankara to stop linking their implementation with a resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict favored by Azerbaijan.

The Armenian-American leaders also urged Obama to honor his campaign pledges to recognize the 1915 massacres of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire as genocide once in office. “If this normalization process is used as a smokescreen for not reaffirming the Armenian Genocide and the U.S. record, it will be a blow to the rapprochement process and the expectations of people of goodwill everywhere,” they said, highlighting concerns among many Armenians in the United States and elsewhere in the world.

In his reply, Obama again stopped short using the word “genocide” with respect to “one of the great atrocities of the 20th century,” even if he made clear that he stands by his past pronouncements on the subject. “My interest remains the achievement of a full, frank and just acknowledgement of the facts,” he wrote. “I believe that the best way to advance that goal is for the Armenian and Turkish people to address the facts of the past as part of their efforts to move forward.”

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