A senior U.S. official has reiterated Washington's call for Armenia and Turkey to unconditionally adhere to their U.S.-brokered agreements to normalize bilateral relations, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reports.
U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Phillip Gordon said President Barack Obama conveyed the same message to his Turkish counterpart, Abdullah Gul, in a phone conversation earlier this month.
Gordon spoke on March 17 in a lecture on U.S.-Turkish relations delivered at the Brookings Institution, a liberal U.S. think-tank.
"We appreciate the effort that has been made so far and urge both countries to ratify the protocols without preconditions and as soon as possible, a point President Obama made on the phone to President Gul just two weeks ago," he said.
The appeal seemed primarily addressed to Turkey. Ankara has pegged ratification to a resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and a halt to the Armenian campaign for international recognition of the mass killings of Armenians by Turkish forces nearly a century ago as genocide. Armenian leaders reject these "preconditions."
Gordon reaffirmed the Obama administration's opposition to a genocide resolution approved by U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee on March 4. The resolution would label World War I-era killings of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire as genocide.
But speaking to journalists ahead of his speech, Gordon contradicted earlier State Department claims that the administration and Democratic congressional leaders have agreed to block the measure condemned by Turkey.
"Congress is an independent body and they are going to do what they decide to do," he said, according to The Associated Press.
Some observers believe that Washington is using the prospect of U.S. recognition of the killings as genocide in its efforts to persuade Ankara to ratify the protocols.
Turkish leaders are also worried that Obama might use the word "genocide" in his April 24 statement on what is known as Armenian Remembrance Day in the United States.