By Gevorg Stamboltsian
The foreign ministers of Armenia and Turkey announced no further progress towards the normalization of relations between the two neighboring states following fresh talks in New York late on Monday.
A brief statement by the Armenian Foreign Ministry said Vartan Oskanian and his Turkish opposite number, Abdullah Gul, “explored bilateral issues as well as regional concerns” during the meeting held on the sidelines of the ongoing session of the UN General Assembly. There was no word on whether any agreements were reached by them.
Oskanian’s spokesman, Hamlet Gasparian, told RFE/RL that the two men again discussed a possible reopening of the Turkish-Armenian border which Ankara has kept closed since 1993 out of solidarity with Azerbaijan. “The issue of opening borders is always discussed at meetings with Gul,” he said.
Gasparian did not give any details of that discussion, referring all inquiries to Oskanian. He also confirmed that the unresolved Nagorno-Karabakh conflict was on the agenda of the talks.
It was the fourth meeting between the two foreign ministers since June 2003. Oskanian declared after the previous talks held in Istanbul in June that Turkey is “sincere” in its desire to normalize ties with Armenia.
The Karabakh conflict has until now been the key obsctale to improved Turkish-Armenian relations, with successive Turkish governments refusing to reopen the border before its resolution. One of Oskanian’s deputies, Ruben Shugarian, said earlier this month that Karabakh is no longer the main Turkish precondition for the lifting of Armenia’s blockade.
While in New York, Oskanian also met with U.S. Undersecretary of State Mark Grossman and Steven Mann, Washington’s top Karabakh negotiator. The meetings followed the launch of what appears to be a new Karabakh peace initiative by the U.S., Russian and French mediators. It reportedly envisages a partial withdrawal of Armenian forces from occupied Azerbaijani territories around the disputed region.
Armenian officials have not explicitly denied reports that such a deal is on the cards. Oskanian has said only that the Armenian and Azerbaijani presidents discussed unspecified peace proposals jointly put forward by their foreign ministers at their recent meeting in Kazakhstan. Mann and the two other co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group were also present at the marathon negotiations.
(Photolur photo: Oskanian and Gul meeting in Istanbul in June.)