Armenian Leader Urges "Real Steps" From Turkey On Mending Ties

July 28 2009

YEREVAN, Armenia (AFP)–Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian said
Tuesday he won’t accept an invitation to visit neighbouring Turkey
unless the government there takes "real steps" at mending fraught ties.

As part of recent efforts aimed at ending decades of enmity between the
two neighbours, Turkish President Abdullah Gul has invited Sarkisian
to attend a World Cup qualifying football match between the countries’
national teams in Turkey in October.

Gul attended a first match between the teams last year, becoming the
first Turkish leader to visit Armenia.

"I will only accept this invitation if previously made agreements
are fulfilled, if there are real steps. I will visit Turkey if we
have re-opened the borders and if we are on the verge of an end to
the blockade," Sarkisian said at a press conference with Serbian
President Boris Tadic.

"We expect that we will soon see constructive steps our (Turkish)
colleagues will make to create the conditions for the Armenian
president’s visit," he said.

Gul’s visit to Armenia last year kicked off a flurry of diplomatic
activity aimed at normalising relations.

After months of talks, Armenia and Turkey said in April that they
had agreed to a road map for normalising ties, but there have been
few signs of progress since the announcement.

Turkey has refused to establish diplomatic links with Armenia over
Yerevan’s efforts to have World War I-era massacres of Armenians by
Ottoman Turks recognised as genocide – a label Turkey strongly rejects.

Turkey also closed its border with Armenia in 1993 in solidarity with
ally Azerbaijan over Yerevan’s backing of ethnic Armenian separatists
in the breakaway Nagorno Karabakh region.