Your visit to Armenia, to the region, testifies to the United States authority special attention to the South Caucasus. The meetings between the Armenian and American leaderships – I would underscore the Washington meeting between Presidents Sargsian and Obama in April 2010 – reflects our strong will to deepen our relations. More than a century-long friendship between our two nations in which the American Armenian community has had a special role was naturally reflected in the two-decades long interstate relations.
Madam Secretary, the mutual trust and understanding existing between our two countries, thanks to our common efforts, thanks to your personal, invaluable input, are the best pillars for expanding our friendly partnership. The bilateral cooperation between the United States and Armenia, which has reached the highest point in its history, concerns such important domains as institutional reforms, deepening of democracy, rule of law, modernization of economy.
We have also close interaction in the international arena, covering regional and international security, nonproliferation of weapons of mass destruction, fight against all forms of terrorism, peacekeeping cooperations from Kosovo to Afghanistan, and other global challenges. The United States, as a co-chair country of OSCE group, has provided its permanent support to the process of the peaceful settlement of the Nargorno-Karabakh conflict. This process has been under the constant attention of the President and the State Secretary of the United States of America. Together, with the two other co-chair countries, the United States deployed intensive efforts and adopted several high-level important joint statements on the settlement of that issue.
Dear State Secretary, more than once we have expressed our common approach on the normalization of the Armenian-Turkish relations. That position has been and remains the normalization of relations without preconditions. You have made an exclusive contribution to this process. Thank you very much. Unfortunately, the ball continues to remain in the Turkish court.
Twenty years ago, Secretary James Baker noted that free, democratic, independent Armenia and the United States of America shares the same values: democracy, liberty, market economy, defense of human rights. During those 20 years, the United States has strongly supported Armenia. Today, humanitarian assistance is gradually turning into development projects and mutually beneficial cooperation.
Dear Secretary, we express our gratitude to the President Obama’s Administration and to you personally for your commitment and remarkable contribution to strengthening of Armenian-American friendly partnership. I hope that the celebration of the 20th anniversary of diplomatic relations will open new, wider horizons in bilateral relations.
I would like once again to welcome you, State Secretary, and your delegation to Armenia. The floor is yours.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you very, very much, Minister Nalbandian. I feel very pleased that I could be back here in Armenia once again, and I am very grateful for the warm and gracious hospitality offered by the president and yourself. And it is fitting that I would be here as we celebrate 20 years of U.S.-Armenia relations. Anniversaries like this provide an opportunity to look back on how far we have come and also to look down the road toward what kind of future we want of our relationship and Armenia’s position in the world 20 years from now. The president, the foreign minister, and I discussed this at length.
Regarding regional and global security, I thanked the president for Armenia’s contributions to our shared mission in Afghanistan and to peacekeeping operations in Kosovo. We also discussed ways to improve Armenia’s ties with its neighbors and increase stability and security throughout the region. To that end, we are committed to seeing Armenia and Turkey normalize relations, because we think this is a path forward to a better future for the citizens of both countries and we strongly support ratification of the Turkey-Armenia protocols without preconditions. We commend Armenia and President Sargsian for the leadership they have shown on this issue.
Twenty years ago, Armenia had just begun its transition to democracy. There have been positive steps, and now we need to take more. We know from experience that democracy must be built over time. It isn’t about just one campaign or even one election. It is an ongoing project. And we are pleased to see Armenia continuing to work to strengthen your democratic institutions to promote transparency, advance the rights of a free press, root out corruption, respect universal rights and freedoms.
Earlier today, I met several Armenian human rights activists who are working with courage and determination to help make reforms possible and to promote the democratic aspirations of the Armenian people. And we stand committed to working with Armenia as you continue the hard work of democratization.
I am very – I was very pleased at the reports from international monitors about Armenia’s parliamentary elections last month being generally competitive and inclusive, where candidates were able to campaign for the most part without interference. There were some electoral problems that were identified, and we hope that Armenia will work with the OSCE and others to ensure that the next election is even better.
Private sector investors are looking for an open business climate with predictable rules; an independent judiciary; transparent regulations, taxes, and customs. And we are pleased at the progress Armenia has made, and we encourage that even more progress occur this year. I am convinced that unleashing the Armenian people’s entrepreneurial energy can transform the economy, and we look forward to being your partner in doing that.
Of course, the president and I had a serious discussion of Nagorno-Karabakh, including the most recent incidents along the front lines. While I had only just learned of these incidents, I am very concerned about the danger of escalation of tensions and the senseless deaths of young soldiers and innocent civilians. The use of force will not resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, and therefore force must not be used. And we are calling on everyone to renounce force as well as refraining from violence. I assured the president that I would make these points in Baku when I am there the day after tomorrow.
Now, these incidents underscore the necessity to try to keep making progress on the peace process. As a co-chair of the Minsk Group, the United States is committed to working with all the parties to find a way forward. And I am very committed that there has to be a way forward. And it’s not only the actions of leaders; it must be the actions of citizens as well to try to find a way to enable people of the region to live together in peace and dignity.
So there is a lot of work ahead of us, but I am very pleased to have this opportunity to have come to catch up with my friend and colleague, Eduard, as well as to see the president again to review very broadly regional and global matters as well as our bilateral relations. And I think it’s important that we keep working together, because I believe Armenia has a very positive and bright future ahead.
QUESTION: Secretary Clinton, you’re visiting three South Caucasus nations at a time of great economic and political change as well as great challenges: Armenia-Azerbaijan, Armenia-Turkey, Azerbaijan-Iran, Georgia-Russia. What does the United States doing to try to open up some of those relationships, especially here in Armenia where there’s trade neither with Turkey nor Azerbaijan?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, our greatest interest is to see Armenia and Turkey move together toward normalization. We strongly support the efforts that have been made. We have urged the ratification of the normalization protocols without preconditions. As I said when I was here two years ago, the ball remains in Turkey’s court. And I am encouraged that there is more public discussion in Turkey and Armenia about these issues, because I think honest, open, constructive conversations are important for both sides to move forward.
With respect to Armenia and Azerbaijan, there is no linkage between the protocols process and the Nagorno-Karabakh negotiations. Those are separate. But we are equally engaged and pushing hard to try to achieve a peaceful resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh matter.
So on both of these issues in the region, the United States has been and will remain very actively involved. We believe that these are countries that should have open borders, should work together, should trade, should have people-to-people exchanges, because we think that it would be mutually beneficial to all concerned. And one of the reasons for my visit today is to continue working on these two separate but very important processes.
QUESTION: (In Armenian.)
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, as I said, I am very concerned by these incidents and have called on all parties, all actors, to refrain from the use or threat of force, because there is no military solution to this conflict. It can only be resolved at the negotiating table. And of course, there is a danger that it could escalate into a much broader conflict that would be very tragic for everyone concerned.
And so the United States, along with the Minsk Group, is committed to doing everything we can. And I discussed some specific ideas with the president and the foreign minister today. I made it clear to the president that the United States believes that a peace settlement must be based upon Helsinki principles, the non-use of force or the threat of force, territorial integrity, and the equal rights and self-determination of peoples. And you can’t take one out. They have to be an integrated whole in order to arrive at a sustainable solution.
So we will continue with our efforts. Later this month, the foreign ministers will be meeting. And we’re going to be putting ideas forth, because we think it’s in everyone’s interest to focus on achieving a breakthrough solution and avoiding the escalation of violence.
FOREIGN MINISTER NALBANDIAN: (In Armenian.)
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you.