U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Friday invited President Serzh Sarkisian to visit Washington next month, in a telephone conversation that appears to have centered on Armenia’s stalled rapprochement with Turkey.
Sarkisian’s office said Clinton phoned the Armenian leader to invite him to an international summit on nuclear energy security that will take place in Washington in mid-April. It said she expressed hope that the two sides will use the occasion to “continue discussing issues on the bilateral, regional and international agenda.” It gave no further details.
The phone call came the day after Sarkisian suggested that Turkey will not unconditionally normalize relations with Armenia anytime soon and again threatened to annul the U.S.-brokered protocols signed by the two nations in October. Clinton similarly phoned Sarkisian in December just hours after he publicly voiced such a threat for the first time.
The Washington conference, which Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan plans to attend, will come ahead of the April 24 remembrance of more than one million Armenians massacred in Ottoman Empire in 1915-1918. The remembrance day is now seen by some observers as Yerevan’s new unofficial deadline for Turkish ratification of the two protocols.
A deputy chairman of Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party on Friday rejected this and other “artificial deadlines” set by Armenian officials and reiterated that the Turkish parliament will not ratify the protocols without further progress in the Armenian-Azerbaijani negotiations on Nagorno-Karabakh.
“By April, unless there is progress on Karabakh, [the protocols] will not passed the Turkish parliament,” Suat Kiniklioglu told an international seminar held in Yerevan by the NATO Parliamentary Assembly. “The [Turkish-Armenian] border has been closed for 17 years. I think we can wait for another year, if that is going to lead to a solution to the problem.”
Kiniklioglu also said Ankara does not insist on a comprehensive resolution of the Karabakh dispute. “We are not talking about the withdrawal of Armenian troops from the seven [Azerbaijani] raions or anything else,” he said. “ We are talking about a roadmap that puts a clear timeline with international guarantees of how the process should work.”
Armenian leaders have repeatedly rejected any linkage between Turkish-Armenian relations and Karabakh peace.