By Armen Zakarian in Strasbourg
The speakers of the Armenian and Turkish parliaments met in Strasbourg on Wednesday to discuss possibilities of improving relations between their estranged nations.
Armenia’s Artur Baghdasarian said the meeting marked a “positive step” towards the normalization of Turkish-Armenian ties, even though it did not result in any formal agreements. “We live in the same region and must be able to gradually establish normal relationships,” he told RFE/RL.
Baghdasarian said he and his Turkish counterpart, Bulent Arinc, agreed on “the need to develop Turkish-Armenian dialogue.” He said he urged Arinc to press the Turkish government to adopt an “impartial position” on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, the main obstacle to the establishment
of diplomatic relations and the reopening of the border between the two neighboring states.
Turkey sealed the border 11 years ago out of solidarity with Turkic Azerbaijan and still refuses to lift the embargo before a settlement of the conflict. The government in Ankara signaled last year its readiness to drop that precondition but has recently ruled out such possibility. President Robert Kocharian indicated Yerevan’s frustration with the Turkish stance last week when he announced his decision not to attend next week’s NATO summit in Istanbul next month.
The Strasbourg talks, held on the sidelines of a meeting of parliament speakers from the Council of Europe member states, also addressed the 1915 genocide of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire which modern-day Turkey firmly denies. According to Baghdasarian, Arinc repeated the Turkish denial of the genocide but said his country is ready to discuss the highly sensitive issue with the Armenians “without any precondition.”
Baghdasarian said he was specifically asked whether Armenia has any territorial claims to Turkey stemming from its campaign for international recognition of the tragedy. He said he told the Turkish speaker that “the issue is not on our foreign policy agenda.”