This future was not easily assured. At the end of World War I, Turkey could have succumbed to the foreign powers that were trying to claim its territory, or sought to restore an ancient empire. But Turkey chose a different future. You freed yourself from foreign control. And you founded a Republic that commands the respect of the United States and the wider world.
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Turkey has its own responsibilities. You have made important progress toward membership. But I also know that Turkey has pursued difficult political reforms not simply because it’s good for Europe, but because it is right for Turkey.
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Another issue that confronts all democracies as they move to the future is how we deal with the past. The United States is still working through some of our own darker periods. Facing the Washington monument that I spoke of is a memorial to Abraham Lincoln, the man who freed those who were enslaved even after Washington led our Revolution. And our country still struggles with the legacy of our past treatment of Native Americans.
Human endeavor is by its nature imperfect. History, unresolved, can be a heavy weight. Each country must work through its past. And reckoning with the past can help us seize a better future. I know there are strong views in this chamber about the terrible events of 1915. While there has been a good deal of commentary about my views, this is really about how the Turkish and Armenian people deal with the past. And the best way forward for the Turkish and Armenian people is a process that works through the past in a way that is honest, open and constructive.
We have already seen historic and courageous steps taken by Turkish and Armenian leaders. These contacts hold out the promise of a new day. An open border would return the Turkish and Armenian people to a peaceful and prosperous coexistence that would serve both of your nations. That is why the United States strongly supports the full normalization of relations between Turkey and Armenia.
It speaks to Turkey’s leadership that you are poised to be the only country in the region to have normal and peaceful relations with all the South Caucusus nations. And to advance that peace, you can play a constructive role in helping to resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, which has continued for far too long.
Advancing peace also includes the dispute that persists in the eastern Mediterranean. Here, there is cause for hope. The two Cypriot leaders have an opportunity through their commitment to negotiations under the United Nations Good Offices Mission. The United States is willing to offer all the help sought by the parties as they work toward a just and lasting settlement that reunifies Cyprus into a bizonal and bicommunal federation.
About the topic also see Ditord’s blog