- - Sunday, July 4, 2010

RUSSIA

Medvedev says ties will not be harmed

MOSCOW | Attempts to derail improvements in relations between Russia and the United States will fail, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev wrote in a letter to U.S. counterpart Barack Obama amid a spy scandal.

Congratulating Mr. Obama on the July 4 Independence Day, he wrote: “[Our] constructive, neighborly relations … make it futile to try to downplay the importance of our achievements.”

While Washington and Moscow have pledged that the U.S. arrests last week of 10 alleged spies working for Russia will not damage ties, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has accused U.S. authorities of going “out of control.”

Moscow has acknowledged that the spy suspects are Russian citizens. Prosecutors stopped short of accusing them of espionage — seeking classified information — but charged them with being unregistered agents of a foreign government.

ARMENIA

Clinton calls on Turkey to move ahead on ties

YEREVAN | Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Sunday called on Turkey to move forward on stalled efforts to normalize ties with neighboring Armenia and on opening the two countries’ shared border.

“We urge Turkey to take the steps that it promised to take and that both sides continue to try to find the opportunities to open doors to reconciliation and normalization,” Mrs. Clinton said at press conference with her Armenian counterpart, Eduard Nalbandian, during a visit to Yerevan.

Armenia and Turkey signed a landmark deal in October to establish diplomatic ties and reopen their border after decades of hostility stemming from World War I-era massacres of Armenians under the Ottoman Empire.

But ratification of the deal faltered amid mutual recriminations that the other side was not committed to reconciliation and Armenia in April announced it was removing the agreement from its parliament’s agenda.

Yerevan blamed Ankara for stalling ratification and linking the agreement with Armenia’s conflict with Turkish ally Azerbaijan over the breakaway Nagorno- Karabakh region.

Ankara in turn accused Yerevan of undermining the reconciliation efforts after a January ruling of Armenia’s constitutional court cleared the deal but said it could not contradict Yerevan’s official line that Armenians were victims of genocide under Ottoman Turkey.

Armenians say up to 1.5 million of their kin were systematically killed between 1915 and 1917 as the Ottoman Empire, the predecessor of modern Turkey, was falling apart.

Turkey categorically rejects the genocide label and says between 300,000 and 500,000 Armenians and at least as many Turks died in civil strife when Armenians took up arms and sided with invading Russian troops.

FRANCE

French ministers resign after spending scandals

PARIS | Two French junior government ministers resigned Sunday after scandals involving spending state money on a private jet and thousands of euros worth of cigars — all while France is struggling to bring down its deficit.

Alain Joyandet, secretary of state for cooperation, and Christian Blanc, in charge of a sweeping development plan for Paris, submitted their resignations to French President Nicolas Sarkozy, the president’s office said in a statement Sunday. Mr. Sarkozy accepted their resignations.

The departures raised questions over whether more prominent ministers could be on their way out, after Mr. Sarkozy recently said he plans a government reshuffle later this year.

The spending scandals came as France is seeking to cut its enormous deficit and debt, and French workers are still feeling the pinch of the economic crisis.

Mr. Joyandet rented a private jet in March to go to an international conference for aid to Haiti that cost $146,200. He later told reporters the expense was “exceptional” but necessary because of his tight agenda. He insisted he was one of the government’s least costly ministers.

Mr. Blanc was criticized after his office charged 12,000 euros worth of cigars to his ministry’s budget. He later said he reimbursed the government the portion of that money spent on cigars for his personal use.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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