By Emil Danielyan
Armenia has accused Turkey of spurning a rare opportunity to improve strained relations between the two neighbors which arose from a recent exchange of letters between the Armenian and Turkish leaders.
Speaking on Armenian state television late on Thursday, Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian claimed that Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan only exacerbated Turkish-Armenian tensions with his refusal earlier this week to meet President Robert Kocharian and his harsh attacks on Yerevan.
The two leaders were expected to meet on the sidelines of the Council of Europe summit in Warsaw to discuss their exchange of messages. Erdogan wrote to Kocharian last month, suggesting that the two countries set up a commission of historians who would look into the 1915-1918 mass killings of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire and determine whether they constituted a genocide.
Kocharian effectively rejected the idea, calling instead for the creation of a Turkish-Armenian inter-governmental commission that would discuss all issues of mutual concern, including the genocide controversy. Ankara’s reaction to the his written response was rather positive, with Turkish officials reportedly saying that the proposals can be combined.
The Turkish premier reportedly refused to meet Kocharian in Warsaw due to the latter’s renewed calls for international recognition of the Armenian genocide made at the Council of Europe summit. Erdogan angrily condemned Armenia and European countries that recognized the genocide in his speech at the forum on Tuesday.
“Turkey cannot accept such baseless allegations,” he told a news conference later in the day. “No one can achieve anything by keeping such baseless allegations on top of agenda."
Erdogan also indicated that a pro-Azerbaijani solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict remains a key precondition for the establishment of diplomatic relations and the reopening of their border between Turkey and Armenia.
Oskanian denounced Erdogan’s attacks as “inappropriate” and said Ankara “naively” hoped that Kocharian will himself request a meeting. He said the Turks needed the meeting more than the Armenians because they intended to “create an illusion of progress” in Turkish-Armenian relations in the eyes of the European Union leaders.
“The Turks made wrong calculations,” he said. “And as a result of those wrong calculations, the more or less favorable atmosphere created by the exchange of letters was spoiled. And I can only conclude that we took a step backward in Turkish-Armenian relations because of the Turks.”