BY ARA KHACHATOURIAN
GLENDALE–During a press conference Tuesday afternoon at the Armenia Fund offices–newly appointed US Ambassador to Armenia John Ordway stated that given Azeri president Haydar Aliyev’s health and other concerns–he did not expect any "bold" decisions to come from the two leaders regarding an eventual settlement of the Karabakh conflict.
Meanwhile US Ambassador to Baku–Ross Wilson told President Aliyev that President George W. Bush has expressed that a final resolution to the conflict could be possible by the end of the year.
According to an article in the Azeri 525 newspaper–Aliyev commended Bush for his statemen’s and has expressed his conviction that 2002 would usher in a new era of cooperation between Azerbaijan and the US.
In his remarks–Ordway stressed the importance of a resolution to the Karabakh conflict as a key factor in stabilizing the region and moving forward with reforms slated to improve the socio-economic situation in Armenia.
Ambassador Wilson informed President Aliyev that in the upcoming months several American delegations will be visiting Azerbaijan–with the aim of broadening cooperation between the two countries. President Aliyev expressed hope that year 2002 will be a crucial year in the development of US-Azeri relations.
Azeri President has stated that although the direct dialogue is in progress–however the sides need assistance.
In his remarks to the Armenian press–as well as during a luncheon organized by UCLA chair of Armenian Studies Prof. Richard Hovannisian–Ordway made it clear that the US sees the improvement of Armenian-Turkish relations as a priority.
He added that Tuesday’s announcement to lift visa restriction for Armenia’s traveling to Turkey can be deemed as a start of improving relations between the two countries.
Ordway insisted that other reforms could pave the way for thawing of relations between Turkey and Armenia. This–however–was met with discord from the luncheon’s audience of more than 60 Armenian-American community leaders and scholars–who stressed the importance of preconditioning the recognition of the Armenian Genocide to any rapprochement with Turkey.
To this regard–Prof. Hovannisian affirmed that without direct discussion and recognition of the Genocide–it would be tough to foster neighborly relations–given that affirmation (since the US has–on numerous occasions–recognized the Genocide) of the Genocide is key to normalizing Turko-Armenian relations.
During the press conference–Ordway also discussed the ill-fated Turkish-Armenian Reconciliation Commission. The Ambassador expressed his view that TARC was a well-intentioned effort–which had support from certain sectors–while bringing with it controversy. He opined that other ways of creating better rapport between the two countries should be explored.
In discussing Section 907–Ordway said that given the current world climate and the US-led campaign against terrorism–the administration urged congress to waive Section 907–in order to allow the anti-terror effort to move smoothly.
He commented that the measure could also go a long way in improving US-Armenia military cooperation–a new realm in relations between the two countries.
Ordway said that last month’s visit by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld opened a new window of cooperation between Armenia and the US–adding that he looked forward to working with Armenian authorities in achieving this goal.
Ordway was sworn in US Ambassador to Armenia in November.