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By Armen Dulian in Istanbul
Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian held talks with his Turkish counterpart Abdullah Gul in Istanbul on Monday, describing them as “positive” but leaving no indications of an imminent thaw in the strained Turkish-Armenian relations.

“The dialogue was quite good,” Oskanian told reporters after the meeting held on the sidelines of the NATO summit in Turkey’s largest city. “I have nothing concrete to state at this point, but the meeting was quite positive.”

A series of similar meetings between the two ministers last year raised hopes of a softening of Turkey’s policy on Armenia which would lead to the opening of the land border between the two neighboring countries. But the Turkish government, which itself signaled a policy change last summer, indicated earlier this year that it will continue to link the normalization of bilateral ties to the resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Ankara appears to have avoided putting at risk its warm rapport with Azerbaijan, despite strong U.S. support for the open border.

In a sign of Yerevan’s frustration with the perceived Turkish intransigence, President Robert Kocharian decided last month not to attend the NATO summit. Oskanian reiterated that the decision was the result of a lack of any progress in Turkish-Armenian relations in the past five years.

Later in the day Gul and Oskanian were holding another meeting in the company of Azerbaijan’s Foreign Minister Elmar Mamedyarov. The Turkish side has arranged similar trilateral talks in the past. The Karabakh conflict always topped their agenda.

Oskanian used his participation in the NATO summit, marred by violent clashes between Turkish police and left-wing protesters, to meet with Patriarch Mesrob Mutafian, the spiritual leader of Turkey’s small Armenian community. He also delivered a speech to a group of Istanbul Armenians.
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