TURKEY, ARMENIA IN SECRET TALKS TO NORMALIZE TIES
Agence France Presse
July 18 2008
ANKARA – Diplomats from Turkey and Armenia, neighbours without
diplomatic relations, met secretly in Switzerland this month in a bid
to normalize ties, the mass circulation daily Hurriyet reported Friday.
The delegations met in Bern on July 8 and held talks for several days,
Foreign Minister Ali Babacan did not deny the report, saying the two
countries have contacts "from time to time" and stressing that Ankara
favours dialogue with its northeastern neighbour.
Ali Babacan, foreign minister of Turkey, did not deny Friday Turkish
media reports that his country had had dialogues with neighbour and
historical enemy Armenia from time to time.
Adem Altan/AFP/Getty Images
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Printer friendly Font:****The meeting reflects a softer attitude
towards Turkey by Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian, elected in
February, Hurriyet commented, and reported that the United States
and some European Union countries were informed of the talks.
Ankara has refused to establish diplomatic ties with Yerevan since
the former Soviet republic gained independence in 1991 because of
Armenian efforts to secure international recognition of Armenian
massacres under the Ottoman Empire as genocide.
In 1993, Turkey shut its border with Armenia in a show of solidarity
with its close ally Azerbaijan, then at war with Armenia, dealing a
heavy economic blow to the impoverished nation.
"We have contacts with Armenian colleagues from time to time," Babacan
told reporters Friday. "It is important to discuss how relations
between the two countries can be normalized through dialogue."
Turkish and Armenian leaders have met on the sidelines of international
gatherings, including a Black Sea regional summit in Istanbul last
In 2006, Ankara disclosed that Turkish and Armenian diplomats had
held three rounds of talks "to determine whether there is common
ground on which to make progress in bilateral ties."
More recently, Sarkisian invited Turkish President Abdullah Gul to
watch a football World Cup qualifying match between Turkey and Armenia
in Yerevan in September. Gul is yet to reply.
Armenians claim up to 1.5 million of their kin were killed in
orchestrated massacres during the First World War as the Turkish
Ottoman Empire was falling apart.
They have pursued an extensive campaign for an international
recognition of the killings as genocide, securing the support of an
array of countries, including France.
Turkey categorically rejects the genocide label and argues that
300,000 Armenians and at least as many Turks died in civil strife
when the Armenians took up arms for independence in eastern Anatolia
and sided with invading Russian troops.