ANKARA: Armenia cautious on trilateral meeting w/Turkey, Azerbaijan

Turkish Daily News
April 21 2004

Armenia cautious on trilateral meeting with Turkey, Azerbaijan

The Armenian foreign minister says his country will not accept Turkey
as a mediator in the territorial dispute on Nagorno-Karabakh,
claiming that Turkey is biased

ANKARA – Turkish Daily News
Armenian Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanyan said that Armenia was not
opposed to a trilateral meeting with the Azerbaijani and Turkish
foreign ministers but added that Armenia would not accept Turkey as a
mediator in the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute, claiming that Turkey is
biased on the issue.

Oskanyan’s remarks came after a suggestion from Foreign Minister
Abdullah Gul for a trilateral meeting between the foreign ministers
of Turkey, Armenia and Azerbaijan prior to the NATO Summit in
Istanbul in June to discuss a solution to the longstanding
territorial dispute over Nagorno-Karabakh.

Speaking at a news conference in Yerevan on Monday, Oskanyan said the
three countries had met in the past to discuss regional cooperation
and had also touched on bilateral problems such as Nagorno-Karabakh.

“If a similar agenda were offered this time, I see no problem in
[Armenia’s] participation in such talks. … Armenia is not opposed
to such a meeting provided that regional issues are taken up.”

Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev was in Ankara last week for talks,
during which time Turkey declared support for a proposal to resolve
the dispute with neighboring Armenia through a “phased” process,
calling on Armenia to withdraw from part of the territory that it
occupied in Nagorno-Karabakh, a step that would be followed by the
easing of trade sanctions by Azerbaijan.

Parallel to these steps, Turkey would also open its border gate with
Armenia, according to conclusions from Aliyev’s talks.

However, Armenian Minister Oskanyan said they would not accept Turkey
as a mediator in such a meeting, claiming that Turkey is biased on
the issue.

For more than a decade, Azerbaijan’s Nagorno-Karabakh region has been
under Armenian occupation, and international efforts to resolve the
dispute have failed to bring a solution.

Turkey severed its diplomatic ties with Yerevan and closed its border
with the country to protest the occupation of Nagorno-Karabakh and
Yerevan’s support for Armenian diaspora attempts to gain
international recognition of an alleged Armenian genocide at the
hands of the former Ottoman Empire.

But international pressure on Turkey has been growing in recent days,
with the United States and European Union urging Ankara to lift its
trade blockade on Armenia and open its borders to the country.

Upon a question concerning Gul’s remark that everybody should learn a
lesson if a settlement is reached on Cyprus, Oskanyan noted that a
possible settlement on the island could constitute a model for the
Nagorno-Karabakh administration.