ISTANBUL — American Ambassador to Armenia John Heffern has said 2015 will be an opportunity for Turkey to improve relations with Armenia, adding that it will be an important year for both sides, Today’s Zaman reported.
“Hopefully Turkey and Armenia will find a way to make 2015 an inclusive affair and part of a constructive process. 2015 will be a sensitive year. Therefore, it will be an opportunity to bring two nations together,” said Heffern, adding there was great anticipation of 2015 in Armenia.
“2015 should be a year of win-win for both countries, not win-lose,” said the ambassador. In an interview with Today’s Zaman, Heffern stated that relations between Turkey and Armenia were not important solely for the sake of the two nations involved but also for the Unites States. He recommended three tracks to be taken between the two countries: “The first track is the ratification and the implementation of the protocols, which is the key and primary track. The U.S. hopes both sides will ratify and implement the protocols, which have already been signed.”
“[The United States’] primary goal is to bring about reconciliation between Turkey and Armenia,” said Heffern, adding the U.S. had not ceased to support the protocols.
Heffern also touched upon increasing tensions that rose along the Azerbaijani-Armenian border, resulting in the deaths of soldiers from both sides. “Nagorno-Karabakh is indeed an important issue between Armenia and Azerbaijan. The recent clashes along the Azerbaijani-Armenian border show that Nagorno-Karabakh is a critical issue and that the status quo is not acceptable to either side,” said Heffern.
Heffern stated that the U.S., through the Minsk Group had tried to find a peaceful solution to the dispute. “There is no other solution but a peaceful one. The U.S. believes that diplomacy is the right path to reconciliation,” said Heffern.
The ambassador also touched upon the further two tracks he recommends be run by the two countries. The second track involves economic measures, including the reopening of railroads between Kars and Gyumri. “If the railroad reopens there will be a tremendous boost in trade and tourism,” said Heffern, adding that the railroad could be opened without opening the full border.
The third track outlined by Heffern was the reconciliation of the people and cross-border exchanges. “We [the U.S.] will continue to stimulate cross-border exchanges between journalists, students and businesspeople,” he said.
Meanwhile, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu reiterated that the Turkish-Armenian relations won’t be normalized “until Armenian forces leave the occupied territories of Azerbaijan”. In addition, in these days in the Turkish city of Trabzon, the foreign ministers of Turkey, Azerbaijan and Georgia signed an agreement on energy cooperation, again bypassing Armenia.
At a joint press conference the foreign minister of Turkey, a country that occupied the northern part of Cyprus nearly four decades ago, again called “unacceptable” the “occupation of 20 percent of Azerbaijani territories”. “Frozen conflicts can turn into a hot spot any moment. It is very important that instead of freezing the conflict a speedy solution to it be sought,” said Davutoglu.