BAKU: Armitage Supports Opening Of Turkish-Armenian Borders

Baku Today, Azerbaijan
March 27 2004

Armitage Supports Opening Of Turkish-Armenian Borders

U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage said on Friday that
if Turkey opened its border with Armenia, the benefits would be swift
and plentiful, The Associated Press reported.
“It seems to me that the opening of the border between Armenia and
Turkey would benefit the peoples of both sides rather dramatically
and rather quickly,” he said, during a visit to the Armenian capital,
Armitage’s statement came as a response to that of the Azerbaijani
President, Ilham Aliyev, who said Wednesday that Turkey’s opening its
borders with Armenia would make the Karabakh problem `absolutely
impossible to resolve peacefully.’

Aliyev noted that his country could lose an important lever in case
if Turkey were to open its doors to Armenia.

`It also would make it impossible to continue the peace talks and
would even bring the talks to an end.’

Armitage said the United States has discussed the issue with Turkey.

“I think to be fair, our Turkish friends have had their hands full
recently with concerns about northern Iraq and the ongoing Cyprus
talks, but I hope as those concerns are ameliorated that they will be
able to turn their attention to the reopening of the border,” Armitage
said, according to the AP.

He also warned that the solution to Nagorno-Karabakh can’t “be
imposed from top-down, from the outside.”

In his turn, the Azerbaijani President Aliyev called on the nations
`who have a say in the world politics’ not to press Turkey to open
the borders.

`If they want to see the Karabakh conflict resolved quickly, they
have to refrain from pressing on Turkey,’ the president said. But he
expressed hope at the same that Turkey could withstand all such

`Turkey is a great and powerful state … and the Turkish-Azerbaijani
brotherhood is above everything,’ Aliyev stressed.

Armenian Foreign Ministry was also quick to react to Aliyev’s
statement. According to Arminfo, the Armenian Foreign Ministry
spokesman Gamlet Gasparian stated that the opening of
Turkish-Armenian borders would not impede finding a solution to
Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, but would help resolve it easily by
boosting regional cooperation.

Gasparian also expressed belief that that Turkey could more actively
engage in the region’s political and economic processes, if it
`refuses to side with Azerbaijan’s position.’

Turkey has no diplomatic relationship with Yerevan and has been
keeping its borders closed with Armenia since the latter gained
independence after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

In return for establishing diplomatic relations and opening the
borders, Turkey demands Armenia give up propagating the alleged
genocide of Armenians under the Ottoman Turkey in early 20th century,
stop territorial claims against Ankara and withdraw from Azerbaijan’s
occupied territories.