Washington briefing: Active U.S. diplomacy continues in Eurasia

by Emil Sanamyan and Lusine Sarkisyan

Published: Saturday October 25, 2008

U.S.S. Barry.

Assistant Secretary of State Dan Fried was in Armenia (Oct. 17), Georgia (Oct.18-20), and Turkey (Oct. 21) to discuss regional conflicts and bilateral relations, local news media reported. United States regional diplomacy has been stepped up significantly since Russian-Georgian fighting in August.

In meetings with Armenian leaders, Mr. Fried reportedly focused on the Karabakh peace process (see this week's top story) and Armenia's recent talks with Turkey. Mr. Fried said that a "strong, sovereign, democratic Armenia is important not just to the U.S., but to the region as well."

(In a similarly worded message, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev who was in Yerevan on October 21, said Russia wants "the Armenian people to live in a strong, flourishing and stable state.")

Mr. Fried arrived in Georgia simultaneously with the U.S. Navy's guided missile destroyer U.S.S. Barry, which made a "routine, friendly visit" to Georgia's Black Sea port of Poti from October 18 to 20.
(Officials in Abkhazia, meanwhile, confirmed plans for a new Russian naval base at Ochamchir, just forty miles up the Black Sea coast from Poti.)

On his visit to Ankara, Mr. Fried was received with Ertu?rul Apakan, the Turkish Foreign Ministry's number-two, and at a subsequent meeting with media, the U.S. diplomat encouraged continued dialogue between Turkish and Armenian leaders.

According to the Turkish Daily News, Mr. Fried called Armenian President Serge Sargsian "courageous" for extending an invitation to his Turkish counterpart, and Turkish President Abdullah Gül "wise" for accepting the offer. "Sometimes taking risks is the highest realism," he said.

Mr. Fried also pledged continued U.S. intelligence help for Turkey's fight against Kurdish rebels, while urging more Turkish cooperation with Iraqi Kurdish leaders. Turkish forces have suffered numerous casualties in recent Kurdish attacks (see this page in the October 11 Armenian Reporter.)

Meanwhile, the top U.S. military officer, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Michael Mullen, assured the three Baltic republics, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania ­- which have been NATO members since 2004 - that they could count on U.S. military help should they ever come under a military attack.

Days earlier, Admiral Mullen met with Russia's General Staff Chairman General Nikolay Makarov in Finland, for what was described as "fence-mending talks."

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