The talks were held on the sidelines of the nuclear security summit hosted by Obama. The stalled Turkish-Armenian normalization process was expected to be their key focus, with Washington seen as making last-ditch attempts to salvage the U.S.-backed protocols signed by Ankara and Yerevan last October.
“The president commended President Sarkisian for his courageous efforts to achieve normalization of relations between Armenia and Turkey and encouraged him to fulfill the promise of normalization for the benefit of the Armenian people," the White House said in a statement. Armenia and Turkey should "make every effort" to advance the normalization process, Obama said, according to the statement.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who has been personally involved in the Turkish-Armenian diplomacy, and Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian were also present at the talks. The Tert.am news service reported from Washington that Clinton is due to hold a separate meeting with Sarkisian during his visit.
Sarkisian and other Armenian leaders have repeatedly praised the U.S. administration for backing their pursuit of an unconditional and speedy implementation of the Turkish-Armenian protocols. They have threatened to walk away from the agreements if the Turks continue to link their parliamentary ratification with a Karabakh settlement acceptable to Azerbaijan.
U.S. officials have yet to publicly react to those threats. It is not clear whether the Obama administration thinks Yerevan should wait for Turkish ratification for several more months.
Sarkisian’s participation in the summit and face-to-face encounter with Obama reflected Washington's strong support for his conciliatory policy on Turkey that has sparked serious controversy in Armenia and its worldwide Diaspora. He is the first Armenian head of state to meet a U.S. president in nine years.
Sarkisian’s predecessor, Robert Kocharian, and the late Azerbaijani President Heydar Aliyev were separately received by President George W. Bush in the White House after several days of U.S.-sponsored peace negotiations held on the Florida island of Key West in April 2001.