Sarkisian Hopeful That Turkey ‘May Yet Mends Ties With Armenia’


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on May 22nd, 2009

YEREVAN (RFE/RL)-President Serzh Sarkisian insisted on Friday that
Turkey may still agree to unconditionally normalize relations
with Armenia soon despite its leaders’ renewed linkage between
Turkish-Armenian reconciliation and the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

Sarkisian dismissed as too "pessimistic" his critics’ belief
that Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s recent public
pronouncements on the issue preclude the success of the year-long
dialogue between the two neighboring nations.

"I believe that Turkey still retains its great chance to show
the international community and citizens of Armenia that it is a
modern country, that it is guided by modern standards, principles of
international law. And so in my view, it is still too early to draw
conclusions," added Sarkisian.

Erdogan has stated on numerous occasions in recent weeks that
Turkey will not establish diplomatic relations and reopen the
border with Armenia as long as the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict remains
unresolved. His statements have been endorsed by Turkey’s powerful

"[Armenian] occupation of Karabakh is the cause here and closing of
the border is the effect. It is impossible for us to open the border
unless that occupation ends," the Turkish premier said during an
official visit to Azerbaijan last week.

The Turkish Prime Minister’s remarks earned him criticism on
Monday when the French co-chair of the OSCE Minsk Group mediating
the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict warned Turkey to drop its ongoing
efforts to link the normalization of its relations with Armenia to
a Nagorno-Karabakh resolution. "The normalization of Armenia-Turkey
relations should not be confused with the Karabakh conflict," French
Ambassador Bernard Fassier said in Ankara on Monday. "These are
different and parallel processes."

Fassier said that Armenia and Azerbaijan are closer than ever to
a compromise solution and linking the Karabakh peace process with
Turkey’s negotiations with Armenia can jeopardize the new momentum
in the talks.

Armenia has also criticized Erdogan for making the normalization
of Turkish-Armenian relations conditional on a Nagorno-Karabakh
settlement, saying that such statements could hamper both the
Armenian-Azerbaijani, as well as the Armenian-Turkish negotiations.

Sarkisian, and his foreign minister, Eduard Nalbandian have
expressed concern that Erdogan’s stance could hamper both the
Armenian-Azerbaijani, as well as the Armenian-Turkish negotiations.

But leaders have so far commented on the implications of Erdogan’s
stance for the implementation of a U.S.-brokered "roadmap" to the
normalization to Turkish-Armenian relations. The document has still
not been publicized by Ankara and Yerevan.

The Armenian president is facing growing domestic criticism over
his conciliatory policy toward Turkey. The Armenian Revolutionary
Federation says Sarkisian has helped the Turks scuttle an official
U.S. recognition of the 1915 Armenian genocide while failing to secure
the lifting of Turkey’s 16-year economic blockade of Armenia. The
government’s approach to the talks with Turkey, according to the ARF,
have also given Ankara a chance to manipulate the Nagorno-Karabakh
peace process by positioning itself as an actor in the negotiations.

Sarkisian was speaking on Friday at a joint news conference with
Croatia’s visiting President Stjepan Mesic. His office said the two
leaders agreed on the need for the establishment of "normal relations
between states without preconditions."

Mesic, whose country went through a bloody war following the break-up
of Yugoslavia, expressed hope that Armenia will eventually make peace
with both Turkey and Azerbaijan. "It’s better to negotiate for ten
years than to fight for ten days," he told journalists.

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