BAKU: Turkish minister denies EU pressure to open Armenian border

Turkish minister denies EU pressure to open Armenian border – Azeri TV

ANS TV, Baku
15 Apr 04

Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul has dismissed reports about EU
pressure on Turkey to open its border with Armenia. The border will
not be opened unless there is a breakthrough in the Nagornyy Karabakh
talks, Gul said in an interview with Azerbaijan’s commercial ANS
TV. The presenter concluded by saying that the Azerbaijani president’s
visit to Ankara had dispelled concern in Azerbaijan regarding the
Turkish-Armenian relationship. The following is an excerpt from report
by Azerbaijani TV station ANS on 15 April; subheadings inserted

[Presenter] Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul has expressed his
opinion on arguably the most important aspects of the relationship
between Turkey and Azerbaijan. We will now broadcast the interview for

Azerbaijani-Turkish ties to improve further

[Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul, in his office, in Turkish]
Relations between Turkey and Azerbaijan have a long history. Everyone
in the government before us did their best, and the government before
that too vested a lot of effort into cultivating this
relationship. Hence, friendship with Azerbaijan is something above the

There has been a lot of important meetings. The late president Heydar
Aliyev has frequently visited Turkey, and we paid visits to Azerbaijan
regularly. Many agreements have been signed, and our political
relations are quite good. However, this does not mean that they
cannot be improved.

We must further improve our relationship and make it stronger. For
that, many economic agreements have to be signed, and many economic
projects have to be implemented. Both the Turkish and Azerbaijani
governments have the will, intention and desire to do so. From this
view, we deem such visits very important.

We are not going to just seat next to each other and have a nice
time. We are having meetings, signing agreements. That is, we are
striving to make our relationship stronger, to take it further. From
this view, I am very hopeful and I believe that we will accomplish
much more.

[Correspondent Qanira Pasayeva] One of the meetings – an expanded
meeting, and you took part in it – has been completed. Which topics
were top of the agenda, and which proved to be the most debatable?

[Gul] There are two issues which we reckon are the most important at
this juncture. One of them is political, including naturally relations
between Azerbaijan and Armenia, the invasion of Nagornyy Karabakh and
ways to end that occupation. Second, there are economic topics,
concerning the ways to further develop our economic ties and realize
new economic projects. Undoubtedly, democratization and further
integration of our countries into Europe are also on the agenda of the
talks, but those two issues are at the top of the current agenda.

Trilateral meetings on Nagornyy Karabakh

[Correspondent] You said that there were talks on Nagornyy
Karabakh. When you came to office, it seemed that you will spend more
effort trying to resolve the conflict. You even suggested holding
trilateral meetings between Turkey, Azerbaijan and Armenia. Why did
those meetings not take off and do you think they could be fruitful?

[Gul] No, they did take place and they are continuing. We are indeed
placing great importance on the talks, not only in appearance but also
in essence.

On behalf of our government, I spend a lot of effort on this
issue. When trying to resolve other problems in the world, we cannot
leave this conflict in a frozen condition. We cannot say – let us put
it in a refrigerator and leave it there. We must try hard to resolve
it and for that I paid two visits to Azerbaijan and had three meetings
with Armenian Foreign Minister [Vardan Oskanyan] over this period. I
will continue to have those meetings.

As you put it, let us have a trilateral meeting and Turkey will play
the role of a catalyst. Because resolving this issue peacefully will
benefit everyone.

We are not neglecting this issue.

[Correspondent] But ex-Foreign Minister Ismail Cem, too, tried hard to
do that and he did not succeed. They only had a few meetings and then
there was a statement saying that there was a standstill this
way. What is your opinion?

[Gul] Difficult issues are not resolved by one single meeting. To
resolve difficult and complicated issues, one has to spend a lot of
effort. We must try very hard.

[Correspondent] You have had three meetings with Oskanyan. What is
their standpoint on Nagornyy Karabakh? Did you sense any give and take

[Gul] Certainly, everyone has his own viewpoint. Some common ground, a
compromise, has to be reached in this regard. And that has to be a
just solution. >From this view, everyone may have their own
positions, but we must hold meetings and discuss this, not leave the
issue on its own.

[Correspondent] Were you satisfied by meetings with Oskanyan? Did he
have a position suitable for reaching such a common ground?

[Gul] From his view, he also wants the conflict to be resolved. But
naturally based on his standpoint.

[Correspondent] How does he propose to resolve it? Make Nagornyy
Karabakh independent?

[Gul] There are topics that we discuss in private because if we want
to try to resolve the issue, we have to keep something
confidential. But we must be determined and strive to resolve the

Take Cyprus, for instance, where an important breakthrough has been
made. Why would that be impossible in this case?

EU stance on Nagornyy Karabakh

[Correspondent] You are also conducting talks with the European
Union. What is their stance on these problems?

[Gul] They are rather aloof from this issue, but we seek to involve
them closer. Because they, too, are members of the OSCE Minsk Group
and the Council of Europe – Azerbaijan and Armenia are there as
well. Therefore, the Caucasus already seems to be part of Europe, and
we must try to turn their attention in this direction.

[Correspondent] The EU is putting pressure on Turkey to open the
border with Armenia. This issue has come into the limelight lately.

[Gul] There is no such thing. To be frank, I lament those reports. All
journalists from Azerbaijan pose us this question whenever we
meet. This makes us a bit uncomfortable because there is no such

[Correspondent] And it cannot enter the agenda soon?

[Gul] No. There is no such problem.

[Correspondent] What are the conditions under which Turkey could open
its border with Armenia?

[Gul] If this issue is resolved.

[Correspondent] So, only after the Karabakh [conflict is resolved]?

[Gul] When this issue is resolved, when there are breakthroughs in
this regard, when there are mutually acceptable approaches.

Armenian claims

[Correspondent] You have meetings with Oskanyan and discuss not only
Azerbaijan. I mean, the Armenian Constitution contains territorial
claims to Turkey and the Armenian lobby, as well as the Armenian
government, also makes claims about genocide. What do you think about

[Gul] Those issues are all just fictions. While Armenia is grappling
with its own problems, it is only laughable that it might lay a
territorial claim to part of Turkey.

[Correspondent] What about genocide claims?

[Gul] As for the genocide claims, they belong to the Armenian
diaspora, some rich Armenians residing in America. I tell them: then
go and leave in Armenia, if you love it that much. Do not just seat
there and stir things up. I tell them this. I hope that they will see
and realize this themselves.

There have been certain events at the time, but many Turkish lives
were lost as well. Under conditions of war, there can be casualties on
both sides but the Turks have never systematically killed people. Nor
does our history contain anything like that or our religion allows us
to do that. Massacre of civilians, genocide against them – such things
have never occurred in our history. The Turks, the Muslims, have never
done anything like that.

Hence, there may be some slander. We are always ready to reply to
those claims.

[Passage omitted: Turkey sent its envoy to USA to resolve this issue]

[Correspondent] Turkey is also a member of the OSCE Minsk Group. Why
does it not discuss the reasons for the Minsk Group’s failure to
resolve the Nagornyy Karabakh issue by now?

[Gul] Indeed, this issue has to be raised and I am spending a lot of
effort in this regard. During my visits abroad, I tell heads of state
that they are not paying as much attention to this issue as to other
conflicts. This conflict cannot be left in a frozen condition. They
have to pay attention to it and this conflict has to be resolved. We
are trying hard, but of course Azerbaijan has to try hard as well. It
is Azerbaijan’s lands which have been invaded.

On the other hand, Azerbaijan has to become stronger in every sense:
economically, militarily, democratically. To become stronger, the
country not only needs to reinforce its army, it also has to boost its
democracy and its economy. Then it will be better positioned to
defend its rights and interests.

Caucasus policy

[Correspondent] Some of your opponents are heavily criticizing
you. The EU is the priority for the incumbent government, and the
Caucasus policy is too weak, they say.

[Gul] Who are they?

[Correspondent] From the CHP [Republican People’s Party] and
others. Do you think Turkey’s current Caucasus policy is on the
necessary level?

[Gul] Certainly, it is. We place much importance on our Caucasus
policy. Turkey tries to resolve not only the Nagornyy Karabakh
problem, which we have discussed, but also some issues in Georgia. We
are closely watching the developments and are being effective. The
Caucasus is very important for us and the statements from the
opposition are engendered by envy.

[Correspondent] You have visited Georgia. The northeastern part of
Turkey is now well-off and there is a plan to build a railway between
Tbilisi and Kars. It would also connect Turkey and Azerbaijan. It was
talked about for a year but nothing happened.

[Gul] Large resources are needed for that. Not everything can be done
immediately. We also want to do that but we are unable so far to raise
enough funds. But it will be implemented.

[Passage omitted: Speculation on results of the referendum on
reunification in Cyprus]

[Presenter] Prior to Azerbaijani President [Ilham Aliyev’s] visit to
Turkey, there were some points in the Turkish-Armenian relationship
that caused concern in Azerbaijan. Now, those concerns can be
dismissed. It can be said that the positions of Turkey and Azerbaijan
on all issues concur.