Gordon Urges Turkey To Drop Karabakh Condition For Armenia Ties


Dec 10th, 2009

Philip Gordon , assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian
affairs at the US State Department.

WASHINGTON (Today’s Zaman)-Within days of Turkish Prime Minister Recep
Tayyip Erdogan clearly linking the normalization of relations between
Ankara and Yerevan to a resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict,
a senior US State Department official urged Turkey to make progress
on normalization efforts without setting preconditions.

Philip H. Gordon, the assistant secretary of state for European
and Eurasian affairs at the US State Department, who participated
in White House talks between US and Turkish officials, said the two
issues should not be linked Wednesday during a meeting at the Council
on Foreign Relations (CFR).

Reiterating US support for the process of normalization between
Armenia and Turkey, Gordon added: "We would like to see the protocols
ratified. We think this would benefit Turkey and Armenia and help
peace and stability throughout the region."

On Monday Erdogan said: "We have also discussed relations between
Azerbaijan and Armenia, which are of great importance. This is
important in the context of Turkish-Armenian relations. We have
discussed the Minsk Group and what the Minsk Group – the United States,
Russia and France – can do to add more impetus to that process. I
can say that to have more impetus in the Minsk process is going
to have a very positive impact on the overall process, because the
normalization process between Turkey and Armenia is very much related
to these issues. As the administration in Turkey, we are determined
to move forward in this area."

In response to a question about Erdogan’s call for more momentum
in the Minsk process, Gordon said: "We are actively engaged in
the Nagorno-Karabakh issue. Not because we see it linked to the
Turkey-Armenia relationship, but because we think it could be also
contributing to peace and stability in the region that both Armenia
and Azerbaijan would benefit from. [A] Minsk group co-chair is in the
region right now because we think this is hugely important. But it has
long been hugely important, and it’s hugely important independently
of any other issue. It’s something we care [about], and we would like
it to succeed. If both of these processes were to succeed, it would
really be a historic development for the region."

Underlining US expectations of seeing a "move forward as quickly as
possible," Gordon said the US has been asking both the Armenian and
Turkish governments for the ratification of the protocols "as soon as
possible, without preconditions and independently of any other issue."

Gordon, meanwhile, called what appeared to be the diverging approaches
of the two NATO allies toward Iran’s nuclear program "a tactical
difference." Yet, he also noted that the US told Turkey about their
"disappointment" over the fact that Turkey had abstained in a vote
on a resolution in the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA),
passed on Nov. 27, which censured Iran for covertly constructing
a second enrichment plant near the city of Qom, demanding a halt
to construction.

There "could be problems" if measures such as sanctions are taken
against Iran without seeking a diplomatic solution, Erdogan said on
PBS’s "Charlie Rose" show following his meeting with Obama.

Voicing gratitude for Turkey’s support in Afghanistan, Gordon
underlined that Richard Holbrooke, Obama’s special envoy for
Afghanistan and Pakistan, "cares deeply about the special cooperative
relationship" between the US and Turkey in Afghanistan.

Ruling out arguments that Turkey has been drifting away from the
West, Gordon said what he has observed is a Turkey that is aspiring
to become a full European Union member, a goal supported by the US

When reminded of Washington’s silence on the influence of the military
in Turkish politics, Gordon said: "I think we have always made
clear that first of all we respect Turkey’s democracy and the need
for appropriate civilian-military relations in Turkey. And when the
prime minister comes here, we believe he is speaking for Turkey and
the Turkish government. And we are satisfied with that relationship."