A top U.S. diplomat was reported to praise Armenia’s position in the stalled normalization process with Turkey at a meeting with President Serzh Sarkisian on Thursday.
Sarkisian and Assistant Secretary of State Philip Gordon met in the Ukrainian capital Kiev after attending the inauguration of Ukraine’s newly elected president, Viktor Yanukovich.
A statement by Sarkisian’s office said the talks focused on the U.S.-backed efforts to normalize relations between Armenia and Turkey. It said the Armenian leader reaffirmed Yerevan’s commitment to an unconditional implementation of the agreements to that effect which were signed by the two governments in October.
The statement quoted Gordon as describing this position as “constructive” and saying that the Armenian and Turkish parliaments should ratify the two protocols “without linking them to other existing problems.”
It was a clear reference to Turkish leaders’ statements making Turkish ratification conditional on a resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict that would satisfy Azerbaijan. The Armenian government says this “precondition” contradicts the essence of the protocols, which make no reference to the Karabakh dispute.
Ankara also attributes its reluctance to ratify the protocols to the Armenian Constitutional Court’s recent interpretation of the protocols’ implications which it says ran counter to the letter and spirit of the deal. Gordon, who coordinates U.S. policy on Europe and the former Soviet Union, dismissed the Turkish claims last month.
U.S. officials have yet to publicly comment on Yerevan’s threats to wake away from the agreements if the Turks continue to drag their feet. Acting on those threats, the Armenian parliament passed on Thursday, in the second and final reading, legal amendments that facilitate such a move.
Adding a new twist to the normalization process is a decision by a U.S. congressional committee to discuss and possibly vote on March 4 on a resolution describing the 1915 massacres of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire as genocide. A Turkish parliamentary delegation is expected to visit Washington this week to lobby U.S. lawmakers to block it.
The U.S. State Department opposed similar resolutions drafted by pro-Armenian legislators in the past, citing Turkey’s geopolitical significance for the United States. Department officials have so far pointedly refrained from criticizing the latest genocide bill. Some observers believe Washington will use it to press Ankara to ratify the protocols.
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu clearly alluded to such possibility when he condemned the bill earlier this month. He said the prospect of U.S. recognition of the Armenian genocide will not force his government to soften its stance on protocol ratification.
Davutoglu insisted this week that the Turkish-Armenian rapprochement has not reached an impasse. “Negotiations and the process are going on,” he said, according to the Regnum news agency.