YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–The U.S. ambassador to Armenia, Marie Yovanovitch, has praised the current state of U.S.-Armenian relations, saying that they have become more “productive and positive” over the past year.
“I think that 2010 was a fabulous year for relations between Armenia and the United States,” she told RFE/RL’s Armenian service in a year-end interview.
Yovanovitch singled out President Serzh Sarkisian’s April talks with U.S. President Barack Obama, held on the sidelines of a nuclear security summit in Washington. She also pointed to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s July visit to Yerevan which she said included “a really good set of talks” with Armenia’s leadership.
“I think those two meetings are symbolic of the really productive and positive relationship that our two countries have, and I hope that 2011 will bring more of the same,” added the diplomat. “I think that there are a lot of areas that we want to work on together and I think we will work on together.”
Earlier this month, Yovanovitch downplayed the fallout from a recent WikiLeaks revelation that Washington accused Armenia of re-exporting weapons to Iran and threatened sanctions against Yerevan two years ago.
In a secret December 2008 letter, the then Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte pressed Sarkisian to take wide-ranging measures that would “ensure such transfers do not occur in the future.”
According to another State Department cable disclosed by the whistle-blowing website, a team of U.S. officials presented Sarkisian with documentary evidence of the arms transfer that allegedly took place in 2003. The Armenian president, who served as defense minister in 2003, is said to have admitted the transfer after months of denial.
The leaked cables also show that Washington was pressing Yerevan to tighten export controls and allow U.S. inspectors to make unannounced visits to Armenian border checkpoints. With both sides refusing to comment on the disclosures, it is not known whether any U.S.-Armenian agreements to that effect have been signed since then.
Clinton publicly commended Sarkisian for his policy of rapprochement with Turkey after their July talks in Yerevan. The unresolved Nagorno-Karabakh conflict was also high on the agenda of her trip.
Yovanovitch told RFE/RL’s Armenian service that the Obama administration remains “very committed” to the Karabakh negotiating process jointly mediated by the United States, Russia and France. She insisted that Sarkisian and Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev made progress towards a Karabakh settlement during the recent OSCE summit in Astana, Kazakhstan despite their failure to announce any specific agreements.
The envoy stressed the importance of a joint statement issued there by Aliyev, Sarkisian and the heads of the U.S., French and Russian delegations at the summit. “They agreed that only a peaceful, negotiated solution will really bring to reconciliation between the two peoples,” she said. “I think that statement represented progress, and certainly we hope that we’ll see more progress in 2011.”
Yovanovitch further reaffirmed Washington’s strong opposition to any attempts to solve the Karabakh conflict by force. “Another war is not going to settle anything,” she said.