Turkey tells Azeris no plan to open Armenia border

Turkey tells Azeris no plan to open Armenia border

02/10/05 17:11 ET

ANKARA, Feb 10 (Reuters) – Turkey reassured its ally Azerbaijan
on Thursday it had no plans to open its border with Armenia while
Armenian forces occupied part of Azeri territory. Turkey shut its
border in 1993 to show solidarity with oil-rich, Turkic-speaking
Azerbaijan in its long and bitter dispute with Armenia over the
territory of Nagorno-Karabakh.

Despite Armenia’s continued occupation of Nagorno-Karabakh, which is
inside Azerbaijan’s borders, some Turkish businessmen and media have
called for an opening of Turkey’s border and a resumption of trade.

“The continued occupation (by Armenia) and the fact that nearly a
million of our Azeri brothers are refugees remain an obstacle (to
opening the border),” Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul said
after talks with his Azeri counterpart.

“From this point of view I hope talks towards a peace settlement
will be productive … and that the occupation will come to an end.
Then all relations can be normalised,” Gul told reporters.

Azerbaijan suffered a humiliating defeat in a 1988-94 war with Armenia
over Nagorno-Karabakh after the region’s mainly Armenian population
tried to break
away from Azeri rule.

An estimated 35,000 people were killed and one million refugees fled
to Azerbaijan, where they remain. At the same time, thousands of
ethnic Armenian refugees fled to Armenia.

A ceasefire ended the conflict but the dispute persists despite
international efforts to broker a deal.

Turkey’s relations with Armenia are also clouded by Armenian claims
that Ottoman Turkish troops committed genocide against its people
between 1915 and 1923. Turkey denies the claims.

Turkey is due to begin entry talks with the European Union. Some
in the EU, especially in France, home to Europe’s biggest Armenian
diaspora, say Turkey must open its border with Armenia and recognise
the “genocide” before it can join the bloc.