Gul to send conciliatory message to Armenia

HYE-TERT, Turkey
July 20 2008


Yer: Armenia
Tarih: 19.7.2008

Turkey’s President Abdullah Gul will send neighboring Armenia a
conciliatory message wrapped in a warning over regional isolation when
he visits the Turkish-Armenian border next week. Gul will visit Ani,
an uninhabited medieval Armenian city in the province of Kars on the
Armenia border, on July 23, during a visit to the region to attend a
ceremony to inaugurate the construction of the Turkish part of a
regional railway passing through Turkey, Georgia and Azerbaijan; the
line excludes Armenia. The presidents of Azerbaijan and Georgia will
also attend the inauguration ceremony, scheduled for July 24, Today’s
Zaman reports. `Despite Turkish efforts to deepen cooperation with
other regional countries at the expense of landlocked Armenia, Gul’s
visit to Ani is a sign of readiness to improve ties with
Yerevan. Armenia wants Turkey to restore medieval churches in Ani and
Turkish authorities began renovation works in the city early this
year,’ the newspaper says. Foreign Minister Ali Babacan yesterday
appeared to confirm a report in the Turkish media that Turkish and
Armenian officials had secret talks in Switzerland earlier this
month. The report in the Hurriyet daily said the officials met for a
few days starting on July 8 and that a senior Foreign Ministry
official headed the Turkish delegation. `Such talks are held from time
to time,’ Babacan told reporters. Turkey imposed blockage on Armenia
as a token of support to Azerbaijan in the Nagorno Karabakh
issue. Ankara also urges Armenia to stop the Armenian Genocide
recognition process and says that both Armenians and Turks died during
the World War I. `We have problems about current issues and
disagreements about the 1915 events. It is essential that these
problems are handled through dialogue,’ Babacan said. Armenian
President Serzh Sargsyan proposed `a fresh start’ in relations with
Turkey in an article published in The Wall Street Journal earlier this
month. `The time has come for a fresh effort to break this deadlock, a
situation that helps no one and hurts many. As president of Armenia, I
take this opportunity to propose a fresh start – a new phase of
dialogue with the government and people of Turkey, with the goal of
normalizing relations and opening our common border,’ he
said. Sargsyan also invited Gul to a World Cup qualifying match
between Armenian and Turkish teams in September. Officials say the
invitation is still under consideration and that the president will
decide according to developments. During a meeting with Iranian
Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki, Gul said that Sargsyan’s
invitation is being considered.