Friday, April 23, 2010

US still hopeful on Turkey-Armenia deal

WASHINGTON — The United States said Thursday it remained hopeful that Turkey and Armenia would move toward reconciliation despite Yerevan's halt to an accord that would end decades of hostility.

US officials said they had anticipated President Serzh Sarkisian's announcement that parliament would no longer consider ratifying the US-backed deal, but they welcomed his decision not to fully withdraw from the peace process.

"We are actually encouraged that, both in the case of Armenia and Turkey, they have taken pains to make sure the process doesn't collapse," State Department spokesman Philip Crowley told reporters.

"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," he said.

Crowley said that the United States had urged the two countries not to give up on reconciliation efforts on the sidelines of this month's nuclear summit in Washington.

"Neither side has walked away from the process, but I think we all recognize that we'll just need some time to... create some new momentum that allows the process to move forward," Crowley said.

Armenia's ruling coalition of three parties had earlier announced it was freezing ratification of the deal because "the Turkish side is refusing to ratify the protocols without preconditions and in a reasonable timeframe."

Ankara has said that process cannot move forward without progress in Armenia's conflict with Turkish ally Azerbaijan over the breakaway Nagorny-Karabakh region.

The neighbors have had hostile relations for decades because of the legacy of the 1915-1917 massacres of Armenians.

Armenians say up to 1.5 million of their kin perished in deportations and orchestrated killings during World War I but Turkey rejects the genocide label and says that 300,000 to 500,000 Armenians and at least as many Turks perished in civil strife as the Ottoman Empire crumbled.

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