By Emil Danielyan
Turkish President Ahmet Necdet Sezer has congratulated his Armenian counterpart, Robert Kocharian, on his recent reelection, official sources in Yerevan said on Friday.
“I hope that during your second term in office our region will be able to take steady steps towards a lasting peace, stability and cooperation with your participation,” Sezer said in a written message publicized by Kocharian’s press office.
Armenian diplomatic sources said Sezer’s move should be seen as an expression of diplomatic courtesy and does not signal any change in the strained relations between the two neighboring countries. They said Armenian and Turkish leaders have sent each other similar congratulatory messages in the past.
Turkey refuses to establish diplomatic relations with Armenia until a resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict that would restore its Turkic-speaking ally Azerbaijan’s control of the Armenian-controlled disputed region. Some Turkish leaders have also demanded that the Armenians open a land corridor between the Nakhichevan exclave and the rest of Azerbaijan under a future peace deal. Such a corridor would give Turkey an overland link with Azerbaijan proper.
Ankara also strongly objects to Yerevan’s and the worldwide Armenian Diaspora’s efforts at international recognition of the 1915 genocide of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire.
The Armenian side rejects the demands, insisting that the two countries normalize their relations without preconditions.
Ankara and Yerevan have had no high-level diplomatic contacts since the formation of a new Islamist-led government in Turkey last November. Such contacts were previously facilitated and arranged by the Turkish-Armenian Reconciliation Commission (TARC), a U.S.-sponsored panel of retired diplomats, political experts and public figures.
The ten members of the commission held an unpublicized meeting in London earlier this month, ending a one-year deadlock in their activities. Their resumption followed the recent publication of an independent study on the events of 1915 conducted by the New York-based International Center for Transitional Justice (ICTJ). The research commissioned by the TARC concluded that the massacre of some 1.5 million Ottoman Armenians fits into the internationally accepted definition of genocide.
The Armenian and Turkish governments have not yet officially reacted to its findings. The United States, which strongly backs a Turkish-Armenian rapprochement, has also not commented on them.
The TARC, meanwhile, intends to continue its meetings on a regular basis.