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U.S., France Praise Armenia's Statement On Turkey

Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian

Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian

YEREVAN -- The United States and France praised Armenia on April 23 for not annulling the agreements to normalize relations with Turkey despite Ankara's refusal to implement them at this juncture, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reports.

The U.S. State Department insisted that the Armenian-Turkish normalization process had not collapsed and that the Turkish-Armenian protocols might 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 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," Gordon added.

U.S. State Department spokesman Philip Crowley likewise told a daily news briefing late on April 22 that Washington was satisfied with Sarkisian's decision not to rescind Yerevan's signature from the agreements.

"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," Crowley said. "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."

In a televised address to the nation on April 22, Sarkisian said he and his governing coalition had 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 context 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 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 today.

The statement said France is urging Armenia and Turkey to "maintain the dialogue" and "multiply efforts" to implement the protocols.