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Top U.S. Official Discusses Turkey With Armenian Officials

Armenian Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian (left) talks to visiting U.S. Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg.
YEREVAN -- U.S. Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg has reportedly assured Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian that the normalization of Turkish-Armenian relations is "very important" for the United States, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reports.

Steinberg met with Sarkisian and Foreign Minister Eduard Nalbandian on February 4 during a one-day visit to Yerevan. The U.S.-backed efforts to improve Turkish-Armenian relations were high on the agenda of their talks.

Sarkisian's office said in a statement that "[Steinberg] reaffirmed that the normalization of Turkish-Armenian relations is very important for the United States and that the United States is ready to continue its assistance in the process."

Leading analyst David Phillips told RFE/RL that stronger U.S. pressure on Turkey is essential for salvaging its fence-mending agreements with

Phillips, an academic at American University in Washington, declined to speculate on just how strong that pressure would need to be. But he said, "I do believe that unless the Obama administration presses the Turks at the highest level, the likelihood of the protocols being ratified in Ankara will decrease."

Phillips described Steinberg's visit as "a clear indication that the Obama administration understands the importance of this matter and the need to raise the profile of its involvement."

In October, Armenia and Turkey signed accords aimed at overcoming a century of enmity stemming from the World War I-era mass killings of Armenians by Ottoman Turks. But the two sides have since accused each other of trying to set new conditions on the deal.