YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–The United States and France praised Armenia on Friday for not annulling the Western-backed agreements to normalize its relations with Turkey despite Ankara’s refusal to implement them at this juncture.
The U.S. State Department insisted that the normalization process has not collapsed and that the Turkish-Armenian protocols may still be put into effect “over the long term.”
“We note President [Serzh] Sarkisian’s announcement that Armenia will suspend the discussion of the protocols in its National Assembly,” Philip Gordon, the U.S. assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs, said in a statement circulated by the U.S. Embassy in Yerevan.
“President Sarkisian’s announcement makes clear that Armenia has not ended the process but has suspended it until the Turkish side is ready to move forward,” he said. “We applaud President Sarkisian’s decision to continue to work towards a vision of peace, stability, and reconciliation.
“We continue to urge both sides to keep the door open to pursuing efforts at reconciliation and normalization,” added Gordon.
U.S. State Department spokesman Philip Crowley likewise said Washington is satisfied with Sarkisian’s decision not to withdraw Yerevan’s signature from the agreements. “This is something that the Armenians had hinted to us that they were prepared to do, so we’re not surprised by the announcement,” he told a daily news briefing late on Thursday.
“We are actually encouraged that, both in the case of Armenia and Turkey, both sides have taken pains to make sure the process doesn’t collapse. That gives us some reason for optimism that over the long term we can find ways to come back to it and try to push forward the protocols again,” Crowley said.
In a televised address to the nation earlier on Thursday, Sarkisian said he and his governing coalition have chosen not to scrap the protocols for the time being at the request of the United States, Russia and other foreign powers. He mentioned in that regard his recent talks with the U.S., French and Russian presidents.
Sarkisian and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan met with U.S. President Barack Obama in Washington early last week. According to Crowley, Obama conveyed the following message to the Armenian and Turkish leaders: “Keep the process going; if you don’t think that this is the right time, that’s fine, we’ll step back and reevaluate how to move forward.”
The U.S. reaction to the Armenian decision was echoed by French President Nicolas Sarkozy. “President Sarkozy welcomes by the Armenian president’s readiness to adhere to the process of normalizing Turkish-Armenian relations, despite difficulties which the two sides have encountered in the process of ratifying the protocols signed in Zurich on October 10,” the French Embassy in Yerevan said in a statement on Friday.
The statement said France is urging Armenia and Turkey to “maintain the dialogue” and “multiply efforts” to implement the protocols.