Sunday, December 21, 2008

Armenian, Turkish FMs talk in Istanbul

First published in November 29, 2008 Armenian Reporter

Armenia’s foreign minister expects normalization of relations with Turkey “very soon”
On visit to Istanbul, says Armenia will “never” halt genocide recognition efforts
by Emil Sanamyan

, - Armenian-Turkish normalization "could be done in a quick way, because I do not see any major obstacles," Armenia's foreign minister, Edward Nalbandian, said in Istanbul on November 24.

At the same time, Mr. Nalbandian stressed that Armenia is not saying, "never said, and will never say to our diaspora organizations or to any countries to stop the international recognition efforts of the Armenian Genocide. It is absolutely impossible."

The Turkish government has sought to prevent such recognition, warning in the past that Turkey would retaliate against Armenia's interests should the U.S. Congress adopt a resolution on the Genocide.

According to the Hurriyet newspaper on November 24, "the Turkish government is planning to restore [sic] diplomatic relations with Armenia by appointing an ‘accredited ambassador' if the Yerevan administration agrees to take a step on investigating the 1915 incidents."

Armenian leaders, including President Serge Sargsian earlier this month have rejected the so-called "commission of historians" proposed by Turkey in 2005 as a ploy to undermine recognition efforts.

Armenia holds the rotating presidency of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation (BSEC) organization, and it was in this capacity that Mr. Nalbandian was in Istanbul. In additional to littoral states, the organization includes Armenia and Azerbaijan and a few western Balkan countries.

Following the BSEC meeting, Mr. Nalbandian met Turkish Foreign Minister Ali Babacan. That meeting lasted for more than two hours, the Armenian Foreign Ministry said in a press release.

"At the briefing that followed the meeting, Edward Nalabandian and Ali Babacan assessed the meeting as effective and constructive," the press release said. "Ministers agreed to continue efforts directed towards normalization of bilateral relationship."

According to Turkish media reports, Mr. Babacan said that the aim of both sides "is to totally normalize bilateral relations."

Answering questions from numerous foreign and Turkish media outlets following the BSEC session and before meeting Mr. Babacan, Mr. Nalbandian said "negotiations concerning normalization of [Armenian-Turkish] relations" continue "in a positive way," according to the recording of the remarks made available by the Armenian Foreign Ministry.

"We are discussing some details and points as any [other] establishment of diplomatic relations, this must be prepared properly," Mr. Nalbandian went on to say, implying that a political decision to normalize relations has already been taken by both sides. "All opening of borders that have been closed for years and years must be prepared properly. This is not a problem, this is a question of our discussions."

Mr. Nalbandian reiterated the Armenian government's position that it has no preconditions for establishment of diplomatic relations and opening of borders. He added that he expected "the same approach from the Turkish side [because] normalization is in the interest of Armenia and Turkey" and was "not a favor" of one side to another.

After Turkish president Abdullah Gül's visit to Armenia in early September on President Sargsian's invitation, there have been heightened expectations for a breakthrough in relations.

Following talks in Yerevan, Mr. Nalbandian and Mr. Babacan met in New York in late September on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly.

But judging by comments Mr. Gül made at the U.N. and Prime Minister Recep Tayyib Erdogan made during his visit to the United States in mid-November, Turkey continues to condition normalization on the satisfaction of Turkish concerns on the matters of Armenian Genocide and, to a lesser extent, the Karabakh conflict.

At the press conference in Istanbul, Mr. Nalbandian also said that he is likely to meet with his Azerbaijani counterpart at the OSCE ministerial meeting in Finland next week and that a new presidential summit may follow sometime in early 2009.

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