US urges Armenia to recognize Turkish border

Türkiye Materials 20 June 2008 14:52 (UTC +04:00)

The United States for the first time publicly called on Armenia to formally recognize its border with Turkey as part of proposed measures for reconciliation between the two conflicting neighbors. "Armenia should acknowledge the existing border with Turkey and respond constructively to efforts that Turkey may make," Dan Fried, assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs, told a hearing of the House Foreign Affairs Committee on recent developments in the Caucasus.Also in the written text of his speech at the panel, Fried said, "Armenia must be ready to... disavow any claim on the territory of modern Turkey."A top problem between Ankara and Yerevan is Armenia's insistent calls for the recognition of World War I-era killings of Armenians in the Ottoman empire as genocide, reported Turkishdailynews.

Turkey recognizes Armenia, but has refused to set up diplomatic relations with it and keeps their mutual land border closed in response to Armenia's ongoing occupation of Nagorny-Karabakh, an enclave inside Azerbaijan, and some Azeri lands.Armenia and U.S. Armenians accuse Turkey of subjecting its northeastern neighbor to an economic blockade.

Turkish diplomats say that Armenian efforts for international genocide recognition is a prelude to a larger list of demands, including compensation and even "return of lands."Armenia's constitution does not explicitly recognize the country's border with Turkey, and many Armenians and the Armenian diaspora view part of eastern Anatolia as traditional Armenian lands.Fried's remarks were important in the sense that it was the United States' first public call for Armenia to respect Turkey's territorial integrity as a prelude to better relations.The U.S. official also called on Turkey "to come to terms with a dark chapter in its history.""Reconciliation will require political will on both sides, and does require dealing with the sensitive and painful issues, including the issue of the mass killings and forced exile of up to one-and-a-half million Armenians at the end of the Ottoman Empire. Turkey needs to come to terms with this history," Fried said.

He also reiterated a call for Turkey to open the land border with Armenia, saying both sides would greatly benefit from such reconciliation.Pro-Armenian lawmakers insistently asked Fried why the United States does not officially recognize last century's Armenian killings in the Ottoman empire as genocide."We don't use the term because we do not think that the use of that term would contribute to a reconciliation between Armenia and Turkey, nor would it contribute to Turkey's examination of the dark spots in its own history," he replied.A genocide resolution came close to passage at the U.S. House of Representatives last fall, and only strong Turkish warnings that such a move destroy the relationship with America and President George W. Bush's administration's focused efforts caused it to be shelved.But analysts here warn that Turkey almost certainly will face the same problem in Congress next year. Making things worse for Turkey, Democratic presidential contender Barack Obama strongly supports the Armenian position.