Hurriyet, Turkey
July 24 2011


US asks for action from Turkey for reconciliation


Sunday, July 24, 2011
Serkan Demirta┼?
ANKARA ` H├╝rriyet Daily News

The US puts pressure on Ankara to put the relations back on track with
Yerevan as Azerbaijan and Armenia fail to negotiate the disputed
Nagorno-Karabakh issue. The ongoing reconciliation process has been
blocked by Azerbaijan, which indirectly threatened to stop supplying
natural gas to Turkey

The United States is pressing Ankara to move toward rapprochement with
Yerevan following the collapse of talks between Armenia and Azerbaijan
last month to discuss the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region.

`The time is right for normalization. Some action to get the process
moving, to give [it] momentum would be fine,' U.S. Secretary of State
Hillary Clinton told Turkish officials July 16 during a visit to
Turkey.

Azerbaijan and Armenia had earlier failed to come to an agreement over
the contested territory of Nagorno-Karabakh during a June meeting in
Kazan, Russia. The U.S. was reportedly infuriated by Baku's U-turn
during the talks.

The Turkish-Armenian reconciliation process has been blocked by
Azerbaijan, which indirectly threatened to stop supplying natural gas
to Turkey and to give Russia preference as its main energy partner.
Turkey and Armenia signed two protocols to normalize relations and to
open their border, sealed since the early 1990s, but both countries
failed to ratify the accords due to domestic pressure. Turkey said
ratification would only be possible after Armenia and Azerbaijan reach
an agreement over Nagorno-Karabakh. Hopes for a deal disappeared after
Baku rejected such an agreement in Kazan and criticized Armenia's
approach.

A flashpoint of the Caucasus, the region known as Nagorno-Karabakh is
a constituent part of Azerbaijan that has been occupied by Armenia
since the end of 1994. While internationally recognized as Azerbaijani
territory, the enclave has declared itself an independent republic but
is administered as a de facto part of Armenia.

With the U.S. home to a several-million-strong Armenian diaspora
pressing the administration to recognize Armenian claims of genocide
in the waning days of the Ottoman Empire, Washington is seeking the
completion of the process between Ankara and Yerevan. The top U.S.
diplomat said they understood the domestic difficulties in the
ratification of the protocols but hinted there could some other action
to keep the momentum alive.

As reported by the H├╝rriyet Daily News last week, a set of
confidence-building measures are planned to this end, starting with
direct flights from Yerevan to the eastern province of Van, a
destination for many Armenians who wish to visit an ancient Armenian
church on Akdamar Island in Lake Van.

According to the Armenian press, a member of the Van Chamber of
Commerce, Abdullah Tun├ždemir, said the Yerevan-Van flights would begin
Sept. 11 if the Van airport could be upgraded to meet international
standards. Another planned measure is to open a Turkish Airlines, or
THY, office in Yerevan to coordinate Armenians' flights to the United
States via Istanbul.

Such steps will, on the one hand, give a strong signal to Baku that
its refusal to deal with Armenia will not stop Turkish-Armenian
rapprochement; on the other hand, they will also help relieve growing
pressure on the Turkish and American administrations from the Armenian
diaspora.

Turkey's move to begin flights between Van and Yerevan has drawn a
reaction from Azerbaijan. `We do not interfere in the affairs of two
countries but we still reserve the right to respond in the event of an
infringement of the national interests of Azerbaijan,' Elman
Abdullayev, the first secretary of the Azerbaijani press service MFA,
told the Trend news agency in response to the possible flights.

`Azerbaijan's Foreign Ministry is following the developments and will
react according to the future scenario,' said Abdullayev.