Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan met in Washington on Monday in an effort to kick-start the stalled process of normalizing relations between their countries. (UPDATED)
Neither Sarkisian, nor Erdogan made any public statements on the results of the talks. The official Turkish Anatolia news agency said they discussed in detail an unpublicized letter which Erdogan sent to the Armenian leader through a top Turkish diplomat last week. It said they two men instructed their foreign ministers to keep looking for ways of salvaging the U.S.-brokered agreements to establish diplomatic relations between Turkey and Armenia and open their land border.
Addressing members of the Armenian community in the United States shortly after the talks, Sarkisian again rejected Turkish “preconditions” for ratifying the two “protocols.” “We are not going to make the fact of the [Armenian] Genocide the subject of an examination in any format or pretend to believe that Turkey can have any positive role in the Karabakh negotiating process,” he said in a speech.
Speaking to journalists on Sunday, Erdogan indicated that his government continues to link protocol ratification with a breakthrough in the Nagorno-Karabakh peace process. “Hurriyet Daily News” quoted him as saying that the U.S., Russian and French mediators co-chairing the OSCE Minsk Group should be “much more active” in trying to broker a Karabakh settlement.
Sarkisian was scheduled to meet Obama later in the day. That meeting was likewise expected to focus on Turkish-Armenian relations.
Both the White House and official Ankara said at the weekend that Obama will hold separate talks with Erdogan on Tuesday. “The priority issue is developments regarding Armenia,” the Turkish premier said before departing to the U.S.
Erdogan flew to Washington just days after sending Turkey’s Ambassador Namik Tan back to the United States. Tan was recalled to Ankara last month in protest against a U.S. congressional committee’s approval of a draft resolution recognizing the 1915 massacres of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire as genocide.
Turkish officials say the Obama administration has assured Ankara that it will try to block further progress of the resolution. They also hope that Obama will again refrain from using the word “genocide” in his April 24 statement due on the 95th anniversary of the start of the mass killings and deportations.
“We received some satisfactory messages [from Washington,]” Tan told the Associated Press on Friday. “I hope there will be a new chapter.
In his speech, Sarkisian commended the influential Armenian-American community for its decades-long efforts at official U.S. recognition of the genocide. “Nobody can stop the inevitable,” he said, signaling Yerevan’s continuing support for the latest genocide bill.
Sarkisian also defended the Turkish-Armenian protocols, saying that those critics who claimed they would halt the genocide recognition process have been proven wrong. He also accused Turkey of making “doomed attempts” to cause a rift on the issue between Armenia and its worldwide Diaspora.
Sarkisian addressed community activists at the Washington National Cathedral after laying flowers at the grave of Woodrow Wilson, America’s World War One-era president revered by many Armenians. He touted Wilson as “a true friend of the Armenian people” and “great statesman” who was the first to articulate the need for international recognition of the Armenian genocide.
Sarkisian also lauded the modern-day U.S. for its “considerable role in the life of the Armenian people.”