ANKARA: Sarksyan: No Turkey Visit If Border Remains Closed


Today’s Zaman
July 30 2009

Armenian President Serzh Sarksyan said he will not attend the
Turkey-Armenia 2010 World Cup qualifying match in Turkey if the border
between Armenia and Turkey remains closed.

Turkish President Abdullah Gul went to the Armenian capital city
of Yerevan in September to watch the Armenia-Turkey 2010 World Cup
qualifying match, accepting Sarksyan’s invitation with the hope of
ending the century-old hostility between Armenia and Turkey. Sarksyan
was invited to watch the Turkish leg of the Turkey-Armenia 2010 World
Cup qualifying match during Gul’s visit to Yerevan.

"We expect to witness constructive steps soon, by which our colleagues
will try to provide a suitable environment for the return visit of the
Armenian president," Sarksyan told a news conference after meeting
his Serbian counterpart Boris Tadic. Turkey and Armenia announced
in late April that they agreed on a roadmap to normalize relations
between them. The roadmap, not announced to the public, is believed
to include the gradual opening of the border and the establishment
of diplomatic ties.

However, since the roadmap was announced, there have been very few
steps taken to implement it due to Azerbaijan’s strong opposition to
negotiations to normalize relations between Turkey and Armenia. "I
will accept the invitation only in the event that the agreements
reached are fulfilled, if we see real steps. I will go to Turkey if
we already have the border open, or we are on the threshold of the
blockade being lifted," he said.

Turkey was unable to take further steps to improve relations with
Armenia due to Azerbaijan’s opposition to the normalization of ties
between Turkey and Armenia. To address concerns raised by Azerbaijan
over a possible Turkish-Armenian rapprochement, Turkish Prime Minister
Recep Tayyip Erdogan paid a visit to Azerbaijan on May 13. In a speech
delivered before the Azerbaijani parliament at the time Erdogan
assured deputies that the border will remain closed if there is no
significant breakthrough vis-a-vis the problem of Nagorno-Karabakh —
a self-declared but internationally unrecognized republic — which
was a battleground between Azerbaijani and Armenian military forces
in early the 1990s.