Gul Hasn’t Yet Decided Whether To Visit Yer


24.07.2008 13:41 GMT+04:00

Turkish President Abdullah Gul said yesterday that "Turkey wants good
relations with its neighbors and stability in its region but sent
a veiled message to Armenia that it should respect the territorial
rights of neighboring Azerbaijan if it wants to be part of regional
integration projects," Today’s Zaman reports.

Turkey severed its ties and closed its border with Armenia in 1993
as a token of solidarity with Azerbaijan in the Nagorno-Karabakh issue.

Ankara also says the normalization of ties depends on Armenia’s formal
recognition of the current borders with Turkey and changing its policy
of calling for worldwide recognition of the Armenian Genocide at the
hands of the Ottoman Empire.

Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan has invited Gul to a World
Cup qualifying match between the national soccer teams of the two
countries due on September 6 and has called for dialogue to help the
normalization of ties, saying this will be mutually beneficial. Foreign
Minister Ali Babacan said last week that Turkish Foreign Ministry
officials had talks with Armenian officials in Switzerland earlier
this month. But the Foreign Ministry insisted that the talks did not
mean a change in Turkey’s policy.

Gul said yesterday he has not yet decided whether to visit Yerevan.

Gul is in Kars to attend a ceremony to inaugurate the construction
of the Turkish part of a regional railway passing through Turkey,
Georgia and Azerbaijan. The presidents of Azerbaijan and Georgia are
also attending the inauguration ceremony.

Turkey has taken steps to deepen regional cooperation on energy,
transportation and trade with Azerbaijan and Georgia. The planned
Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway will link the three countries and revive
the historical Silk Road by connecting Central Asia and the Far East
to Europe via Turkey.

Construction of the Georgian section of the railway, expected to
begin service in 2011, began in last November. Gul had joined Georgian
President Mikheil Saakashvili and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev
at the inauguration ceremony. Some 1.5 million people and 6.5 million
tons of cargo are expected to be transported via the railway in the
first year following its launch. The project is estimated to cost
$450 million.