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Armenia to continue dialogue efforts

US urges Turkey, Armenia to continue dialogue efforts
Turkish and US delegations, led by Davutoğlu and Clinton, met at New York's Waldorf Astoria Hotel.

US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has pressed Armenia and Turkey to follow through on their commitment to normalize relations after decades of hostility.

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In separate meetings held on Monday on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, Clinton told the foreign ministers of the two countries that they should proceed apace and not get bogged down by political opposition to a deal, which they hope to seal by mid-October.

Normalization “should take place without preconditions and within a reasonable timeframe,” Clinton said as she met with Armenian Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian. She later delivered a similar message to Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, US officials said.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan announced on Sunday that Turkey and Armenia would sign a deal to establish diplomatic ties on Oct. 10. But the agreement must be approved by the countries' parliaments to take effect, and a major dispute remains over the World War I-era killings of Anatolian Armenians in the Ottoman Empire. Turkey insists that it was not genocide and that the death toll is inflated.

The top US diplomat for Europe, Philip Gordon, said the US was eager for the deal, which also foresees the reopening of the Turkish-Armenian border, and was anxious that it happen quickly. “This is a difficult process that faces some political opposition in both places and it's hard for both governments,” Gordon, the US assistant secretary of state for European affairs, told reporters after Clinton's meetings. “It shouldn't wait for other things to get done, or be linked to other things. It should go ahead.”

Gordon also said the US supports what has become known as “soccer diplomacy” between the two countries and would like to see Armenian President Serzh Sarksyan visit Turkey for an Oct. 14 World Cup qualifier between Turkey and Armenia.

Turkish President Abdullah Gül attended a World Cup qualifier in Yerevan last year in what was hailed as a breakthrough, but Sarksyan has said he will only go to the game in Turkey if there's progress toward opening the border. “We think it would be a good thing if he attended it, reciprocating the attendance of the Turkish president of the match when it was in Armenia,” Gordon said when asked to comment on a reciprocal visit.

“It would be a good sign and further evidence of the two countries coming together if he went to the football match,” he said. Turkish diplomats, speaking with the Anatolia news agency, said the Cyprus issue, the Turkey-US joint struggle against terrorism, recent developments in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the controversy surrounding Iran's nuclear program were also on the agenda of the meeting between Clinton and Davutoğlu, in addition to the normalization process between Ankara and Yerevan.

Davutoğlu also held separate bilateral talks with Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari and Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki on Monday. Davutoğlu and Zebari discussed Erdoğan's upcoming visit to Baghdad which is scheduled to take place next month. Meanwhile, Erdoğan had already announced earlier this week that Davutoğlu is expected to visit Iran on Oct. 1 -- the same day an Iranian delegation will meet with representatives of the five permanent UN Security Council members and Germany in Geneva for talks on its nuclear program.

30 September 2009, Wednesday


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