ANKARA: Oktay Eksi:Turkey, Armenia Talks Must Be Without Pre-Conditi


July 18 2008

According to a news report in Hurriyet daily on Friday, Turkey and
Armenia have been secretly negotiating in Switzerland. We wish this
process all the best.

Though some basic information is missing in the news; for example,
the aim and the scope of the negotiations are not known.

But, generally it can be estimated that the issues will aim at
boosting ties between the two countries. The subject of any talks is
likely to focus on opening the border closed by Turkey for 14 years,
lifting the economic embargo implemented by Turkey, kicking off the
diplomatic relations between two countries and, legalizing the nearly
60,000 Armenian citizens that the Turkish government has been tolerant
to allow to live in Turkey illegally until now.

In fact, it is not secret that Armenia desires to "normalize"
relations and that the United States suggests -even pressures- Turkey
on this issue.

The possibility of stepping up these moves had increased after the
election of Serge Sargsyan as Armenian president in February 2008. It
was expected that this new president would have more pigeon politics
compared to the former president, Robert Kocharian, who was the
spokesman for the hawkish side of Armenian politics.

Though it is also known that Sargsyan, who was serving as prime
minister during Kocharian’s presidency, had not shown restraint when
speaking about Turkey in an interview he gave in the United States
on Oct 27, 2007. For example, he made the following remark in the

"It can not be expected for us to live in peace as long as our
neighboring country stands beside us not approving genocide. They
(Turks) are not only denying the genocide, but the also keep the
Armenian border closed. This is why we have a neighbor that does not
accept civilized and normal relations. We have not chosen the land
we are living on willingly. We are aware that we had lived there (in
Turkey) for thousands years. And we are also aware of the necessity
of living there for thousands of years to come. But, our neighbors
should also understand this… The genocide took place in West Armenia,
which is now part of Turkish territory… Those people were forced
to leave their land due to genocide."

You would not make a major issue out of these statements were the
only subject of the affair. But, in the "Independency Declaration"
dated Aug 23, 1990, Armenia says, "The Armenian Republic, with the
approval of the international community, takes as its mission the
genocide carried out in Turkey during the time of the Ottoman Empire
and in West Armenia."

We are talking about a neighboring country that has on its national
flag, the image of Turkey’s Mount Ararat, in other words, a country
that is obviously eyeing lands belonging to the Turkish Republic.

It is also the same neighbor that on the one hand, refuses to
officially say it accepts the accord determining the borders between
Turkey and Armenia, while on the other, implies that, "It puts no
pre-conditions on the table for talks to form normal and civilized
relations with Turkey."