YEREVAN.- U.S. Ambassador to Armenia John Heffern met on Wednesday with a group of Armenian journalists, answering questions on wide range of issues, including the Karabakh peace process, Armenia-Turkey relations and those referring to the parliamentary elections.
Ambassador Heffern stated that the United States continues to support the efforts towards the implementation of the Turkish-Armenian normalization protocols and urges Turkish authorities to ratify and implement these documents without preconditions.
“We are not giving up on the protocols, we are still pushing very hard at every level to get the protocols ratified and implemented. It is important that neither government has withdrawn the protocols from the parliaments. The protocols in both Ankara and Yerevan remain before the parliaments,” Heffern said responding to a question from ArmeniaNow.
“Our message to the Turkish leaders has been to ratify and implement the protocols as they were signed without any preconditions. It is our primary goals in terms of Arm-Turkish reconciliation and we will push it on highest levels,” he said.
“We are pursuing reconciliation on three levels: first and foremost the protocols, get them ratified and implemented without precondition, the second – promoting and pushing Ankara on meaningful economic measures,” Heffern said, brining an example of reopening of Gyumri-Kars car railroad which will also help eastern Turkey and the Armenian and Turkish companies’ negotiations on completion of fiber optic cable from Turkey to Armenia.
“The third level is people-to-people exchanges. We have done it in all sectors: parliamentarians, journalists, students and, businessmen. It is important to break the mistrust between the two countries and two peoples and to build a climate and atmosphere which will make reconciliation possible.”
Commenting on the U.S. attitude towards the May 6 parliamentary elections, Heffern said they tried to assess the elections as objective as possible. Among the positive points he underscored access to media and among the shortcomings – widespread vote-buying, misuse of administrative resources, and favoritism to the government parties in the public sector.
“I was excited to see a spirited debate in the parliament, the opposition parties have taken their seats and there was a strong questioning on government’s program in the parliament. It is a good thing, open debate and open competition is good for Armenia’s democracy. As to the next elections, we are pushing for continued reforms by the authorities.”
Speaking about the Karabakh settlement, Heffern regretted the recent deadly border incidents and reminded about the latest statement of the leaders of the three OSCE Minsk Group co-chair countries, including the United States, made from the G-20 summit in Los Cabos, Mexico, last week.
“What they said was to reiterate that there is only peaceful solution; there can be no military solution to the Karabakh conflict. They called against violence,” he said adding that the same calls were voiced by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during her recent visit to Armenia in June.
“The three co-chairs in the negotiations are promoting military confidence-building measures, specifically, the withdrawal of snipers from the line of contact and the borders, establishment of mechanism to investigate any incidents. We wish to push for confidence-building measures and we are hopeful that if they are approved it will decrease the violence along the line of contact and on the border,” Heffern said.