U.S. Ambassador to Armenia Marie Yovanovitch downplayed on Friday the Armenian nationalist outcry against rapprochement with Turkey, saying that it alone is not indicative of public opinion in the country.
In an interview with RFE/RL, Yovanovitch also reiterated Washington’s strong and unequivocal support for the fence-mending agreements that are due to be signed by Ankara and Yerevan on Saturday. She described them as a “very, very significant step forward” that will be “critical for the entire region” and bring Armenia substantial economic benefits.
The diplomat seemed confident that angry protests staged by nationalist opposition groups in and outside Armenia will not derail a process which she said has exceeded U.S. expectations.
“In terms of the very vigorous debate that has surrounded this issue, there is no question that this is a controversial issue,” she said. “It is a bold foreign policy move both by President Sarkisian and the Turkish leadership.
“Therefore, I think it’s natural -- and it would certainly happen in the United States -- that there is a lot of discussion about this and that there are going to be very strong views both for and against. And I think what we’ve seen on TV, in the blogs and newspapers over the last couple of weeks is an example of that.”
“But I think that there are also many people, at least many people that I’ve spoken with, who are very much in favor of the protocols, in favor of normalization,” added Yovanovitch. “That doesn’t mean that they think every word is perfect. But they think that the general trend is a positive one. I think that’s important to remember.”
The far-reaching Turkish-Armenian protocols have stirred passions in Armenia and its Diaspora communities abroad and the United States in particular. Some Armenian-American organizations are up in arms against what they see as a sellout of Armenian national interests engineered by the U.S. administration. But several other community groups have defended President Serzh Sarkisian’s conciliatory policy, arguing that it has yielded a formal Turkish commitment to normalize relations with Armenia without preconditions.
Citing Sarkisian’s “crystal clear” statements, Yovanovitch insisted that there is no direct link between the Turkish-Armenian rapprochement and international efforts to resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. She also denied allegations by some Armenian opposition figures that the U.S. is turning a blind eye to human rights abuses in Armenia because of Sarkisian’s readiness to make peace with Turkey and Azerbaijan.
(Below is full video of Ambassador Yovanovitch's interview.)