BAKU: Washington Praises Launch Of Turkish-Armenian Dialog


July 21 2008

The United States welcomes the start of dialog between Turkey and
Armenia, US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Matthew Bryza said
just days after Ankara confirmed that Turkish senior officials had
held a secret meeting with Armenian diplomats in Switzerland. The
report on the Turkish-Armenian secret meeting had been published by
Turkeys Huriyyet newspaper. It said the two countries diplomats had
met in Bern July 8 for talks that lasted several days.

The Turkish delegation was headed by high-ranking Foreign Ministry
officials. Bryza told Radio Liberty that he had visited Armenia several
days ago and met with President Serzh Sarkisian and Foreign Minister
Eduard Nalbandian. He further headed to Ankara where he had meetings
with the Turkish prime minister and his advisers on foreign affairs
and the army, as well as the countrys foreign minister and officials
in charge of the Caucasus region. The discussions focused on ways of
normalizing Turkish-Armenian relations. I can say with confidence
that both in Ankara and Yerevan, sincere efforts are being made to
normalize ties, Bryza said. He emphasized that this entails raising
bilateral diplomatic, economic and cultural relations to an acceptable
level. This is a [long] process, and the talks held by Turkish and
Armenian diplomats in Bern are the beginning. The sides worked to
outline details concerning normalization of ties at that meeting,
Bryza said. He voiced hope that Turkish President Abdullah Gul would
accept the Armenian leaders invitation to jointly attend a World Cup
qualifying football match between the two countries teams coming up
in Yerevan. We hope that President Gul will capitalize on this golden
opportunity to move the process forward. Sarkisians invitation is
seen as the latest attempt to improve his countrys relations with
Turkey. Turkish Foreign Minister Ali Babacan said whether or not
the invitation will be accepted depended on the situation that will
emerge. Bryza said Sarkisian had taken a very courageous step by
extending the invitation and by mentioning the possibility of setting
up a joint commission of historians to research the 1915 developments
in Ottoman Turkey that Armenians term as alleged genocide. Ankara has
repeatedly made it clear that discussions on forging ties with Yerevan
could begin only after Armenia relinquishes its policy of occupation
against Azerbaijan and the Armenian genocide claims. Armenia has been
occupying over 20% of Azerbaijani territory since the early 1990s in
defiance of international law.