U.S. Vice President Joe Biden pressed Turkey to unconditionally ratify its Western-backed normalization agreements with Armenia “in the months ahead” during a visit to Ankara and Istanbul that ended at the weekend.
A senior official from the administration of President Barack Obama said the fate of the two Turkish-Armenian protocols signed in 2009 was on the agenda of Biden’s talks with Turkish President Abdullah Gul, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and parliament speaker Cemil Cicek.
The official said that during a breakfast meeting with Cicek on Friday Biden “applauded the fact that the protocols for normalization with Armenia were back on the agenda of the [Turkish] parliament.” “And he expressed his hope that the parliament will be able to act those protocols in the months ahead,” the official told U.S. journalists travelling with Biden.
The U.S. vice president met Gul later on Friday before travelling to Istanbul for separate talks with Erdogan held on Sunday.
“On Armenia, he said to the prime minister what he had raised with President Gul, as well, the hope that now that the protocols for normalization were back on the agenda of the parliament that Turkey would be able to move on those protocols in the months ahead,” the Obama administration official said.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton conveyed a similar message to the Turkish government when she visited Istanbul last July.
The Turkish leaders and Erdogan in particular have repeatedly made clear that the protocols will not be ratified by Turkey’s parliament before a breakthrough in international efforts to resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
Armenia rejects this precondition. President Serzh Sarkisian threatened earlier this year to withdraw Yerevan’s signature from the accord if the Turks stick to the Karabakh linkage.
According to the Istanbul-based “Hurriyet Daily News” newspaper, Biden told Gul that Ankara should “speed up the normalization process with Armenia” if it wants the Obama administration to block further resolutions in the U.S. Congress recognizing the 1915 mass killings of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire as genocide.
This warning attributed to Biden could be seized upon by Armenian critics of the Turkish-Armenian rapprochement who say it has helped Ankara to thwart a broader international recognition of the Armenian genocide.
They were already incensed when Biden claimed last year that Sarkisian himself had asked the White House not to use the word genocide with regard to the slaughter of some 1.5 Ottoman Armenians while Turkish-Armenian negotiations are in progress. Both official Yerevan and the U.S. Embassy in Armenia denied Biden’s claim videotaped by an Armenian-American activist.
Biden strongly supported Armenian genocide resolutions debated by Congress when he was a member of the U.S. Senate.