YEREVAN (Combined Sources)–The United States will continue to press for a speedy and unconditional implementation of the Turkish-Armenian agreements, a top U.S. diplomat was reported to say during her first visit to Yerevan on Tuesday.
The statement by Tina Kaidanow, the recently appointed deputy assistant secretary of state for Europe and Eurasia, came a day after Turkey’s president and foreign minister reiterated their government’s intention to keep the resolution of the Karabakh conflict a top priority in its diplomatic agenda with Armenia.
Official Armenian sources indicated that Turkish-Armenian relations topped the agenda of Kaidanow’s’ talks with Sarkisian and Foreign Minister Eduard Nalbandian.
Sarkisian’s press service said she and the president agreed that the normalization of those relations should move forward “without preconditions and within reasonable timeframes.”
“Tina Kaidanow pointed out that the United States has repeatedly expressed, at various level, this position and will continue to adhere to it in the next phases of the process of normalizing [Turkish-Armenian] relations,” read its statement.
Despite that, Turkish President Abdullah Gul and Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, in separate remarks on Monday, said Ankara would continue to unequivocally demand that Armenia accept a solution of the Karabakh conflict acceptable to Azerbaijan before the borders can be opened or relations normalized.
In a letter to U.S. President Barack Obama earlier this month, Sarkisian thanked Washington for its active involvement in the process. “I am convinced that without the decisive help of the United States it would have been impossible to make effective efforts in this direction,” he wrote.
Sarkisian reiterated his appreciation for US assistance to Armenia during his talks with Kaidanow and stated Armenia’s continued determination to work for solutions that will contribute to lasting peace and development in the region.
According to the Armenian Foreign Ministry, Nalbandian conveyed a similar message to Kaidanow. The ministry said the two also discussed “the latest developments” in the Nagorno-Karabakh peace process. It gave no details.
According to Serzh Sarkisian’s office, Kaidanow, also spoke of “considerable progress” in Armenia’s democratization at her meeting with the Armenian president.
A statement by the presidential press service said Kaidanow pointed to a general amnesty that was declared by the Armenian authorities in June and resulted in the release of dozens of opposition members arrested following last year’s post-election unrest in Yerevan. She was cited as describing the move as a “big positive indicator in terms of democratization processes.”
Kaidanow was not available for comment, and it was not clear whether she thinks Armenia has democratized its political system of late. The U.S. Embassy in Yerevan said it will issue a statement on her trip on Wednesday.
Both the current and previous U.S. administrations have been critical of the Armenian authorities’ human rights records and in particular their crackdown on the opposition that followed the disputed presidential election of February 2009. Citing the crackdown, Washington slashed last June about one third of $235.6 in additional economic assistance promised to Yerevan. Kaidanow’s predecessor, Matthew Bryza, called in July for the release of Armenian opposition members remaining in jail despite the amnesty.
Since embarking on talks with Turkey, the Armenian government has received millions of dollars in low interest loans from the IMF, World Bank, Russia, and the European Union.