Babacan: Turkey Is A ‘Door Of Life’ For A


17.07.2008 17:27 GMT+04:00

Foreign Minister Ali Babacan said that Turkey has taken unilateral
steps to normalize bilateral ties with neighboring Armenia and the
recent offer by Yerevan to the Turkish president to watch a football
match was a result of Ankara’s efforts.

In an interview with the private NTV television, Babacan said Turkey
always favored dialogue with Yerevan as communicated to Armenian
officials in letters sent to them. President Abdullah Gul sent a
letter to Armenian President-elect Serzh Sargsyan after the elections,
expressing the wish for the normalization of relations.

Sargsyan recently invited Gul to visit Yerevan for a football
match in September. Turkey and Armenia will play each other in a
qualifying match for the 2010 FIFA World Cup, scheduled to be held
in South Africa.

Babacan said the Turkish side is still evaluating the offer. He
emphasized that Turkey adopted the policy of "zero problems" with its
neighbors, and that because Armenia is a landlocked country it needs
Turkey to open up to the world. Although the borders are closed with
Yerevan, trade is ongoing through indirect routes, he noted.

"Turkey is a door of life for Armenia," said Babacan, emphasizing
that the Armenian government should do its part for better ties.

"Armenia is to decide: should the problems continue or should we open
a new chapter in relations," said Babacan.

Asked how a possible passage of a genocide resolution in the
U.S. Congress will affect ties with Washington, Babacan said such a
development would seriously harm relations.

He highlighted that "the past is the job of historians while
politicians should look to the future."

In a recent visit to the United States last month, Babacan held talks
with the political advisors of the two U.S. presidential hopefuls,
John McCain and Barack Obama. Babacan said he explained to both of
them "the Turkish stance on the 1915 killings and told them Ankara’s
proposal to set up a joint commission of independent academics to
study the allegations was still on the table."

Babacan stood behind his recent remarks in a speech at the European
parliament that the Muslim majority in Turkey, not the non-Muslims,
were having problems in observing their religion.

"I am behind what I said. There are problems regarding freedoms in
Turkey. The categorical rejection of these problems means ignoring
the facts about Turkey," he added.

Babacan attended a dinner Monday, the first day when Turkey’s
ambassadors from all over the world started detailed foreign policy
talks in Ankara. Foreign Ministry spokesman Burak Ozugergin said
relations with the EU, United States, Latin American countries,
Russia and Africa were discussed on the first day, the Turkish Daily
News reports.