YEREVAN (RFE/RL)—The United States will remain “deeply involved” in international efforts to resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and keep pressing for the implementation of Turkish-Armenian normalization agreements during President Barack Obama’s second term, Ambassador John Heffern said on Wednesday.
“The Obama administration and Secretary [of State Hillary] Clinton devoted a lot of time and attention to Armenia and the South Caucasus,” Heffern said, commenting on implications of Obama’s reelection for U.S-Armenian relations. “Secretary Clinton came here twice during her term in office … President Obama has been deeply involved in trying to find a peaceful resolution to Nagorno-Karabakh. I think that all of that will continue in the second term.”
Heffern made clear that the U.S. administration will also carry on with its efforts to revive the U.S.-brokered agreements to normalize bilateral relations that were signed by Armenia and Turkey in 2009. “Despite the disappointment with the lack of progress, the United States is not giving up on this,” he told reporters in Yerevan, adding that Washington will “continue to push the protocols at every opportunity.”
Turkey makes parliamentary ratification of the two protocols contingent on a Karabakh settlement acceptable to Azerbaijan. Armenia rejects this precondition. The U.S. likewise stands for an unconditional establishment of diplomatic relations between Yerevan and Ankara and opening of the Turkish-Armenian border.
Heffern further predicted a greater emphasis on economic cooperation in U.S. policy towards Armenia. “Where I hope there will be changes, where I am committed to doing more is in the economic area,” he said. “Job creation in the United States and Armenia are critical goals for both countries.”
“So I think the biggest change [for Armenia] in the second Obama administration will be more emphasis on job creation and trade and investment,” added the diplomat. Armenia, for its part, should improve the domestic business environment and bolster competition, he said.
Heffern further implied that the U.S. presidential election should serve as an example for Armenia, which is scheduled to hold a presidential ballot in February. He noted that the extremely close U.S. race saw “serious competition” between two “very strong” candidates and their visions and was covered by a “free and open press.”
“I’ll be looking for all three of these points in Armenia’s elections next February,” he said, expressing hope that the vote will be contested by “at least two strong candidates.”