Joint Press Availability With Armenian Foreign Minister Eduard Nalbandyan

Press Availability
Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Presidential Palace
Yerevan, Armenia
July 4, 2010

FOREIGN MINISTER NALBANDYAN: Dear Madam Secretary of State, dear Hillary (continues via translator) dear colleague, I am glad to welcome you on your first visit to Armenia. It is a particular honor that you are in Yerevan on the Fourth of July, the Independence Day of the United States, on which I cordially congratulate you and all the Americans. The founding fathers of your country, adopting the Declaration of Independence 234 years ago, have proven, by establishing the United States, that nothing can deprive people of their right to independence.

We Armenians have proven it as well, by restoring independent statehood only two decades ago. Since the first days of our independence, the Americans have been by our side. The relations between Armenia and the United States have been continuously deepening. High-level contacts between our two countries in recent years are noticeable, due to their frequency and broadness of content. President Sargsian's latest visit to Washington, D.C. and meeting with President Barack Obama became an important milestone, in terms of deepening our mutual understanding and developing relations.

The American-Armenian community (inaudible). It is necessary to exert all efforts in order to obtain exclusively peaceful settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict based on the principles of international law, particularly non-use of force or threats of force, equal rights of peoples, self-determination of peoples, and territorial integrity. We share the vision that it is necessary to create an atmosphere of tolerance in the region, instead of belligerent behavior. We share the vision that the Armenian-Turkish relations should be normalized without any preconditions. We share the vision of enhancing economic cooperation in the region. We share the vision of a market economy and development of democratic values.

We believe there is great potential, which should be utilized in order to further develop and expand the Armenian-American cooperation. We have agreed on pursuing further strengthening and deepening of our friendly partnership. During the meeting between the President of the Republic and the Secretary of State, the above-mentioned issues, as well as issues concerning further fostering of our cooperation were discussed. International and regional issues of mutual interest were raised. There was discussion of boosting economic cooperation.

Dear Madam Secretary, we too highly commend your personal contribution in qualitatively raising the Armenian-American relations to a new level. We have had several meetings with you in various formats in different platforms. But hosting you here in Yerevan is a particular pleasure for me. I once again welcome you and the members of your delegation accompanying you. Welcome to Armenia.

And I will -- it is my pleasure to pass the floor to you. Please.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you very much, Foreign Minister. It is a real pleasure for me to be here in the Republic of Armenia. And I want to thank you and your president and the people of this country for your hospitality and friendship.

When Armenia became independent again in 1991, the United States was cheering you on, and we have been your friend and partner ever since. Today we celebrate the 234th year of the founding of our country and the declaration of our independence. And we know how sacred and precious the gift of independence is.

Armenia is a nation with both a proud history and a promising future. We are grateful in the United States for the many contributions of Armenian Americans to the cultural and economic life of our country. And we believe that a democratic and prosperous Armenia can be a force for progress in the region and beyond. So, the United States is strongly committed to supporting the Armenian people and your aspirations.

Today I discussed with your president how we can work together. We focused on the building blocks of Armenia's long-term development and security, the importance of advancing democracy at home, and peace and reconciliation with your neighbors. We discussed, in depth, the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh, and the Minsk Group process that is working to resolve it. As I said earlier today in Baku, the United States remains committed to a peaceful resolution based on the Helsinki Principles of non-use of force or threat of force, territorial integrity, and the equal rights and self-determination of people.

President Obama reaffirmed this commitment in a joint statement with President Medvedev and President Sarkozy at the recent G8 summit in Canada. We stand ready to help both Armenia and Azerbaijan achieve and implement a peace settlement. We know this will not be easy. But we think it is the necessary foundation for a secure and prosperous future.

We also discussed the pursuit of normalization between Armenia and Turkey. I expressed my admiration for the president's courageous decision to pursue a vision of peace. The United States believes that normalization promises tremendous benefits for both Armenia and Turkey, as well as the wider region. And we are committed to doing everything we can to help the parties move forward.

We also discussed our commitment to strengthening democracy and the rule of law in Armenia. The United States has worked closely with successive Armenian governments for many years to support the country's democratic development. We have done so openly and honestly, because we see democratization and respect for human rights as vital to Armenia's long-term security, stability, and prosperity. And, as a friend and a partner who believes in Armenia's future, we will continue to support Armenia's civil society and efforts to promote good governance and transparency.

When we look at Armenia, we see a tremendous set of assets residing in the quality, the hard work of the people. And we know that the future of this country, as is the future of every country, is in the hands of the people themselves. And we believe that we can work together to improve the economy, to create greater opportunities, to look to see whether it's possible to develop independent energy resources, such as shale gas, how we can continue to work with the government and people of Armenia on behalf of that common vision of the kind of tomorrow in which every boy and girl has a chance to live up to his or her God-given potential.

So, again, let me thank you. Foreign Minister and I have spent many hours together. And I greatly appreciate his interactions and his expertise and experience. And I wish to thank the president for not only a warm welcome and a candid conversation, but an excellent meal that concluded with a large red, white, and blue July 4th cake. It could not have been a warmer experience. And I look forward to continuing to work closely with you in the future.

QUESTION: (Inaudible), AFP. Madam Secretary, you have spent a lot of energy today discussing Nagorno-Karabakh. Having talked to both presidents, are you any more hopeful?

And, Foreign Minister, in Baku the Secretary of State has said that there has been some progress on this issue. Your president met recently President Aliyev in St. Petersburg. So can you be specific about this progress? Thank you.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, it is promising that the Minsk Group process is engaged very intensively. And in addition to the statement put out by the three presidents of Russia, the United States, and France last week, who serve as the Minsk Group co-chairs, there is a recognition on the part of both Armenia and Azerbaijan that any settlement must be based on the Helsinki Principles. There have been many very serious consultations between both the President of Armenia and the President of Azerbaijan, most recently two weeks ago in St. Petersburg with President Medvedev. And now, we would hope to see real progress made on the -- completing the basic principles to enable the drafting of a final peace settlement.

Everyone knows these are difficult steps to take. But we believe that they are important ones. And we have expressed our concern to both presidents today that the return to violence is unacceptable. We regret the incidents of the last several weeks. And it is in the interest, first and foremost, of the people of Nagorno-Karabakh, but certainly of Azerbaijan, Armenia, and the greater region, to work as hard as we can together to come up with an acceptable lasting settlement of this conflict.

FOREIGN MINISTER NALBANDYAN: (Via translator) After the St. Petersburg meeting, I stated that yet another important milestone has been reached in the peace talks. The sides have agreed to continue the talks, based on achievements to date. In other words, as of the date of the St. Petersburg summit, the new version of the Madrid proposal was shared with the sides.

You know that several days ago the co-chairs were visiting with us. We discussed with them the continuation of the peace talks based on this very understanding. We have also discussed the potential of a meeting, the possibility of a ministerial meeting on the 16th of July on the sidelines of the unofficial meeting of OSCE foreign affairs ministers. A key milestone in this process -- one may even say support to this process -- has come from the latest statement by the presidents of the three co-chair countries, which is Obama, Medvedev, and Sarkozy, during the G8 summit. In line with one of these understandings, we ought to carry on our joint efforts with the co-chairs in the near future.

QUESTION: (Via translator) (Inaudible) Media Television. My question is for Madam Clinton.

Azerbaijan, with its arbitrary interpretation, is rejecting two of the three important principles of Madrid. The right to self-determination and the principle of non-use of force or threats of force have been denied by Azerbaijan. One should also be much concerned about the arms race initiated by Azerbaijan, the (inaudible) statements, and destabilizing measures, which are clearly aimed at jeopardizing the peace talks.

During your visit to Baku, did you bring up these issues? Thank you, Madam Secretary.

SECRETARY CLINTON: The United States strongly condemns the use of force or the threat to use force. And we regret the loss of life that results as the use of force is used. These are unacceptable violations of the 1994 cease fire agreement. And it is also contrary to the stated commitments of both sides.

So, we have called upon everyone to refrain from the use of force or the threat of force because we, number one, do not want to see loss of life or injury; we do not want to see further dislocation of individuals or families; and we do not want to see the peace process harmed. So, my message is the same to everyone: the United States condemns the use or threat of use of force.

QUESTION: Yes, Lucian Kim from Bloomberg News. Madam Secretary, even as the reset continues to relax relations between Russia and the U.S., Russia isn't giving up on its concept of having a sphere of privileged interests, including in the Caucasus region.

You often talk about focusing on areas of mutual concern. But how will you tackle thorny issues like Russia's presence in its so-called (inaudible), and in particular in Georgia, where two years ago we saw how a frozen conflict turned into a war? Inevitably, there are many people in Moscow who don't look very approvingly on this trip in the Caucasus region.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, we have made very clear for the last 18 months that we want to improve our relations with Russia, and I think there is evidence that we have done so with the new START treaty, with the new sanctions against Iran's nuclear weapons program, with increasing cooperation in the Minsk process, or in Afghanistan. I think there is a lot of evidence that the United States and Russia are actually looking for ways to find common ground.

But that doesn't mean we're going to agree on everything. No two nations agree on everything. We do not agree on what happened in Georgia, or the current continuing occupation by Russian forces of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. And we have said so, and I have said it everywhere, not just in the Caucasus.

But we think it's possible to pursue a comprehensive common agenda, as we are doing with Russia, without the disagreements freezing our relationship. We think it's not only in the interest of the United States and Russia, we think it's in the interest of the world that Russia and the United States continue to try to build confidence and trust between one another.

Obviously, we saw when we were in Ukraine that the new government in Ukraine is trying to balance, trying to have improved relations with Russia while seeking integration into Europe and deepening the Euro-Atlantic alliance with the United States. That is Ukraine's right to choose. They are a sovereign nation.

I will be in Georgia tomorrow. And Georgia continues to stand up for itself and to make decisions that are in their own interests, as they define it, and we applaud that.

So, it is not at all unusual that we would have common ground, as we do in the Minsk process, where we are co-chairs, trying to resolve Nagorno-Karabakh, and not agree with respect to other concerns like what has happened in Georgia. I think that's a sign of a very mature, candid relationship. And I think the -- not only this part of the world, but across the world, people ought to be relieved that the United States and Russia have developed that kind of ability to engage and go on, despite continuing disagreements.

QUESTION: (Via translator) (Inaudible) Agency. My question is for Madam Secretary of State. Madam Secretary of State, although in one of the recent interviews the President of Armenia said that Turkey's policy of zero problems with neighbors is yielding zero results, we have recently witnessed Turkey's swift resolution of Iran's nuclear problem. Then, they managed to duplicate Palestine. They have stabilized Iraq, after all.

In this context, how do you view the fact that Turkey is not living up to its commitment of normalizing relations with Armenia, which Turkey undertook in your presence? Thank you.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, the United States commends the Governments of Armenia and Turkey on their signing of the historic protocols on normalization of relations last October in Zurich. I was honored to be there, along with your foreign minister. And it was a visionary and courageous agreement by the leaders of both countries to try to move forward toward full normalization of relations.

We believe -- the United States believes -- that this kind of rapprochement between Armenia and Turkey will foster increased stability and greater prosperity through more open borders, increasing trade and investment, and will, in the long run, be a great advantage to Armenia.

However, as you know, that has not yet been realized. And there have been problems and obstacles along the way. I was very pleased when President Sargsian announced that, despite the problems that Armenia saw coming from Turkey, that Armenia stood ready to continue normalization, but that it would suspend its efforts until the Turkish side was ready to move forward again. We applauded your president's decision, because that was a decision to continue, despite the obstacles, to work toward peace, stability, and reconciliation.

And we urge Turkey to take the steps that it promised to take, and that both sides continue to try to find the opportunity to open the door to reconciliation and normalization. But Armenia's decision last April was very statesmanlike and very impressive. And now, as they say in sports, the ball is in the other court.

FOREIGN MINISTER NALBANDYAN: I take this opportunity, having heard your question, to thank the United States and the Secretary of State herself for her personal contribution, for the enormous support rendered throughout the process of Armenian-Turkish normalization. We concur with the United States that the relationship has to be normalized without preconditions. The agreements have to be honored. We will be ready to move forward when Ankara also once again demonstrates readiness to move forward towards normalization without preconditions. Thank you.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you, Eduard.

PRN: 2010/T31-20