Wed, Sep 30, 2009 - Page 6 News List

US urges Armenia, Turkey to mend ties

HISTORICAL GRIEVANCES The two nations have been at odds for decades because of a World War I massacre of Armenians by Ottoman Turks, as well as other issues

AFP , NEW YORK

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Monday pushed for the successful conclusion of a process to normalize long-tense ties between Armenia and Turkey despite political hurdles in both countries.

Turkish officials said foreign ministers Ahmet Davutoglu of Turkey and Eduard Nalbandian of Armenia will meet in Switzerland on Oct. 10 to ink two protocols, but US officials acknowledged that work still needs to be done.

Clinton, who held talks with both foreign ministers on Monday, hailed their two countries’ strong commitment to normalize ties and end decades of animosity over a World War I massacre.

The US and the EU have both repeatedly urged Ankara to reconcile with Yerevan.

“I want to reiterate our very strong support for the normalization process that is going on between Armenia and Turkey,” Clinton told reporters as she sat down for talks with Nalbandian in the Waldorf Astoria hotel in New York.

Armenia has “demonstrated great commitment to” the process, she said at the meeting on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly.

The US supports normalization taking place “without preconditions and within a reasonable time frame,”she said.

Philip Gordon, the assistant secretary of state for European affairs, acknowledged more work had to be done to seal the deal.

“This is a difficult process that faces some political opposition in both places and it’s hard for both governments,” he said.

“When we say reasonable ‘time frame,’ we mean just that, that it’s not just the process that we want to see,” Gordon said. “We welcome the process, but we also want to see a conclusion to the process and that’s what we’re underscoring when we say that.”

Once the two sides sign protocols aimed at establishing diplomatic ties and reopening their border, they will have to submit the documents to their respective parliaments for ratification.

In 1993, Turkey closed its border with Armenia in a show of solidarity with close ally Azerbaijan over Yerevan’s backing of ethnic Armenian separatists in Azerbaijan’s breakaway Nagorny Karabakh region.

The deal faces political hurdles in both countries. The Ankara government is under fire for reconciling with Yerevan without progress in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Political analysts say the government is unlikely to seek a parliamentary vote to ratify the protocols before progress is made in relations between Azerbaijan and Armenia.

In Armenia, the deal is under fire for its inclusion of plans to create a commission to examine historical grievances — a point, which critics say, calls into question Yerevan’s genocide claims.

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