TURKEY AND ARMENIA’S TROUBLED RELATIONSHIP
April 23 2009
September last year, Turkey’s president Abdullah Gul breaks the ice
becoming the first Turkish head of state to visit Armenia – invited
by his counterpart Serge Sarkisian to watch Turkey take on Armenia
in a football match.
Gul’s visit sparked contrasting reactions among Armenians. For some,
it remained impossible to forget the country’s bitter dispute over
the deaths of 1.5 million ethnic Armenians killed by the Ottoman
Empire during the first world war. However, others hailed the visit.
When questioned, one bystander said: "I don’t care at all who
wins. What is important is the arrival of the Turkish president,
the first time in our history. It will help resolve the political
problems, and it may bring fruits in the future."
The town of Igdir in Turkey next to the Armenian border is overshadowed
not only by Mount Ararat but also by History. There, a monument
stands as a reminder of those Turks killed by Armenians during and
after the first world war.
Goksel Gulbeyi, president of the association that refutes the Armenian
genocide, said: "In Igdir there are still living witnesses who tell
their descendants about the killings by Armenians here. There are
people here who still feel resentment."
For some the possibility of recognising the deaths of more than a
million Armenians between 1915-17 as genocide remains out of the
question. They oppose any opening of the border with Armenia.
That was closed in 1993 when Turkey supported its historical ally
Azerbaijan after fighting broke out with Armenian-backed seperatists
in the volitile Azerbaijani region of Nagorno-Karabakh.
But in the Turkish town of Kars, there are hopes the border with
Armenia will open. The head of the town’s Chamber of Commerce, Ali
Guvensoy, says he wants an end to the age-old dispute.
"We want peace. I went to Armenia and I was received very well. We
show them hospitality when they come here. I think it would be good
for our economy and trade."
But Turkey’s prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan remains cautious,
having pledged in front of parliament to defuse tensions in Nargorno
Karabakh before concluding any deal with Armenia.