21 April 2006

573) Ankara: Yerevan's call for dialogue lacks substance

Armenian President Robert Kocharian and Parliament Speaker Arthur Bagdasaryan made calls on Turkey on Wednesday to re-establish diplomatic relations without preconditions, but Ankara downplayed the statements as lacking real substance.
"Yerevan should have a consistent policy and not give support to anti-Turkey activities and so-called genocide campaigns worldwide, while making such calls," one Turkish diplomat told The New Anatolian on Thursday. He also added that Ankara expects Armenia to recognize Turkey's territorial integrity and also move towards a solution on the Nagorno-Karabakh issue, before the normalization of relations between the two neighboring countries.

Ankara and Yerevan are at odds over the Armenian claims of genocide. To break the deadlock, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan last year suggested the establishment of a committee of Turkish and Armenian historians to study the claims, in a letter sent to Armenian President Robert Kocharian. But Kocharian refused Erdogan's proposal, saying that the two countries must first establish diplomatic relations. Turkey suspended its diplomatic relations with Armenia more than a decade ago after Armenian troops occupied the Azeri territory of Nagorno-Karabakh. The border gate between Turkey and Armenia has been closed since then.

Kocharian expressed Yerevan's readiness to develop relations with Turkey on Wednesday, and Parliament Speaker Bagdasaryan stressed the importance of the creation of an "open and free" dialogue between the two countries. Speaking at a meeting of the Armenian-European Union Inter-Parliamentary Cooperation Commission, Kocharian promised that, other than his expectation to see practical steps taken by both sides, his country would not propose any preconditions for the establishment of diplomatic relations with Ankara.

Kocharian described his country's manner towards Turkey as "clear," reported the Armenian Mediamax news agency. Touching also on the importance of relations with the European Union, the Armenian president said, "We are working in accordance with Europe's new neighborhood policy."

In an exclusive interview with German daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Parliament Speaker Bagdasaryan said, "We should not waste our future because of the past. Hopes for the future are more important than the sorrowful memories of the past. Turkey also needs this dialogue."

Underlining that he personally favors a dialogue with Turkey, Bagdasaryan called on Turkish officials to come and sit around the table to resolve the problems. According to the newspaper, Bagdasaryan is one of the best-placed candidates to succeed Kocharian when his term expires in 2008.

The New Anatolian / Ankara with agencies


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