Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Clinton, Jones reassure Armenians, EU on Ossetia war

This was first published at on October 1, 2009

Washington Briefing
by Emil Sanamyan

U.S. again insists on “reasonable timeframe” for Armenia-Turkey normalization

Clinton with Nalbandian of Armenia, New York, Sept. 28, 2009.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Assistant Secretary Philip Gordon reaffirmed U.S. support for the Armenia-Turkey normalization process this week.

Their comments were made on September 28 following meetings Mrs. Clinton held with the foreign ministers of Armenia and Turkey on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly.

President Barack Obama reportedly discussed the subject briefly with Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan during the G20 summit in Pittsburgh on September 25.

As was the case six months ago, when the first joint statement by Armenia and Turkey was released, U.S. officials agreed with Armenia that normalization "should take place... within a reasonable timeframe."

While neither Armenian nor U.S. officials spoke of a concrete time period, Mr. Gordon explained, "when we say reasonable timeframe, we mean just that: that it's not just the process that we want to see - we welcome the process; but we also want to see a conclusion to the process, and that's what we're underscoring when we say that."

According to Zaman newspaper, Mr. Erdogan suggested the Armenia-Turkey protocols would be signed on October 10 in Zurich, Switzerland. The protocols are thereafter subject to parliamentary ratification, for which there is no announced timetable.

In his comments, Mr. Erdogan also hinted that further progress depended on Armenia's President Serge Sargsian accepting an invitation to watch the Armenia-Turkey soccer match in Turkey on October 14. Mr. Gordon said the United States thought it would be a "good thing" if the Armenian president went. Mr. Sargsian himself had indicated earlier that he would only go if there was real progress toward normalization of relations.

But, as Mr. Gordon noted in his comments, "There are things still to be finalized as to the details of a signature and submission to parliament." The remarks indicated persistent concerns about a speedy ratification of the agreement.

The United States has long promoted normalization of relations between Armenia and Turkey, and while the United States is not formally involved in the current process, mediated by Switzerland, U.S. officials are believed to have had behind-the-scenes involvement.

In a September 30 letter to Secretary Clinton, the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) suggested the U.S. statements were an indication of "heavy pressure" the United States was allegedly applying on the Armenian government to go through with the Turkey protocols. President Sargsian, who intensified talks with Turkey last year, has denied there was any pressure.

The ANCA also relayed "growing alarm and outrage among Armenian-Americans" over the protocols, and also reiterated its dissatisfaction with the Obama administration's policies on Armenian issues.

White House responds to congressional letter on Armenia policy

The Obama White House responded to 81 members of Congress more than six weeks after their letter raised concerns about the United States' Armenia-Turkey policy, the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) reported this week.

In that letter members of Congress urged President Barack Obama to "separate the issues" of normalization of Armenia-Turkey relations and recognition of the Armenian Genocide. During his presidential campaign, Mr. Obama had promised repeatedly that he would recognize the Genocide as president.

The response letter, signed by National Security Advisor Gen. Jim Jones and dated September 17, did not directly address that request by members of Congress.

Instead the Jones letter repeated President Obama's comments last April that avoided the use of the term "genocide" - opposed by Turkey - while also stressing that the president's "view of that history has not changed" from his time as a U.S. senator, when he discussed the Genocide without reservations.

The letter also noted that the United States is "actively engaged at the highest levels to support full restoration of relations between Turkey and Armenia."

"Our interest remains the achievement of a full, frank and just acknowledgment of the facts. We continue to believe the best way to advance that goal is for the Armenian and Turkish people to address the facts of the past as part of their efforts to move forward. We will continue to pursue these efforts vigorously in the months ahead," the letter concluded.

Europeans issue report on Ossetia war

More than a year after the brief but devastating confrontation over South Ossetia was fought largely on live television, European Union investigators determined that it was Georgia after all that launched the war; but they also said Russia's response, while initially justifiable, soon became excessive.

For most of August 8, 2008, Georgian officials did not hide the fact that they had launched an operation to take control of South Ossetia, and they provided regular updates on their military's advances. But after the magnitude of Russian involvement became clear, they changed tack and claimed their military action was merely a response to a Russian invasion.

Finally, the three-volume, 1,200-page, EU-sponsored report determined that the Georgian attack was not justified by international law and was the reason for the war; but it also determined that Georgia and Russia shared blame for the conflict and both violated international law.

The report also set the war's death toll at 850 people and estimated that 35,000 people, mostly Georgians, remained displaced as a consequence of the war. After the war Russia recognized South Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent states and established a permanent military presence in both places.

No comments: