Clinton Phones Sargisian after Armenia Issues Warning to Turkey

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By Emil Danielyan

YEREVAN (RFE/RL) — US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton telephoned President Serge Sargisian late Thursday just hours after he threatened to annul Armenia’s fence-mending agreements with Turkey if Ankara fails to unconditionally implement them, it emerged on Friday.

Speaking at a news conference in Yerevan, Sargisian said Ankara’s continuing linkage of the normalization of Turkish-Armenian relations and the resolution of the Nagorno-Karabagh conflict runs counter to the US-backed agreements signed in October. He said he has already instructed his administration to draft amendments to Armenian laws that “pertain to the signing, ratification and abrogation of international agreements.”

According to Sargisian’s press office, Clinton initiated the phone conversation to brief the Armenian leader on President Barack Obama’s Monday talks with the visiting Turkish prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan. A US official said that the Turkish-Armenian rapprochement topped the agenda of the talks.

“During the phone conversation, Secretary of State Clinton once again emphasized that the United States will continue with its consistent support for a speedy normalization of relations between Armenia and Turkey without preconditions,” the presidential office said in a statement. The statement said Sargisian asked Clinton to express his “gratitude” to Obama for adhering to this position. It also cited him as reaffirming Yerevan’s readiness to press ahead with the normalization process and expressing hope that “the Turkish side will display similar readiness and responsibility.” There was no word on whether the two touched upon the Armenian threats to walk away from the deal.

In a letter to a leading Armenian-American organization publicized last week, Obama said the process “should move forward without preconditions and within a reasonable timeframe.” According to Sargisian’s office, Clinton likewise stated that Washington views the Turkish-Armenian normalization and efforts to resolve the Nagorno-Karabagh conflict as “separate processes.”

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However, Erdogan insisted after the talks with Obama that from Ankara’s perspective, the two processes are “very much related.” He said Turkey’s parliament is
unlikely to ratify the two Turkish-Armenian “protocols” unless there is a breakthrough in the Armenian-Azerbaijani peace talks.

The Protocols commit Ankara to establish diplomatic relations with Yerevan and reopen the Turkish-Armenian border within two months of their entry into force. Neither document makes any reference to the Armenian-Azerbaijani dispute.

The Sargisian administration has also been on the defensive over a key Protocol clause that envisages the formation of a Turkish-Armenian panel of historians that would look into the 1915 Armenian Genocide in the Ottoman Empire. Its critics say Ankara would exploit the existence of the body to deter more countries from recognizing the events as genocide. Sargisian insisted in a November 28 speech, however, that the rapprochement with Turkey will actually help Armenia and its worldwide diaspora “accelerate the recognition process.”

Clinton has been personally involved in the drawing up and signing of the Turkish-Armenian Protocols. She was among foreign dignitaries that attended the signing ceremony held in Zurich on October 10. The top US diplomat already phoned Sargisian in August and September to discuss the dramatic thaw in the historically strained Turkish-Armenian ties.