By Armen Zakarian
Armenia and Turkey made no progress toward the normalization of their historically strained relations during their most recent diplomatic contacts, Deputy Foreign Minister Arman Kirakosian said on Tuesday.
High-ranking diplomats from the two countries held secret talks in Europe earlier this month to explore possibilities of easing their tensions. The Turkish side was represented by a senior Foreign Ministry official and Ankara’s ambassador to Georgia. Government sources in Yerevan have told RFE/RL that the talks took place in Vienna and that the Armenian delegation was headed by Kirakosian.
Kirakosian did not deny the information. “There exist different formats in Turkish-Armenian contacts,” he told RFE/RL. “First of all, it is the format of the foreign ministers. As is known, the two ministers have held a number of meetings recently. There is also a format of [foreign ministry] department heads. So the dialogue is continuing.”
“So far we have made no political progress,” he added.
According to Kirakosian, the talks centered on last April’s unprecedented exchange of letters between President Robert Kocharian and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The latter proposed that Ankara and Yerevan set up a commission of historians who would jointly study the 1915-1918 mass killings of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire and determine whether they indeed constituted a genocide. Kocharian responded by calling for the creation of a Turkish-Armenian inter-governmental body that would tackle this and other issues of mutual concern.
“In accordance with the president’s letter, we propose during the negotiations the creation of an intergovernmental commission that would deal with different problems,” Kirakosian said, adding that Armenia continues to stand for the normalization of bilateral relations “without any preconditions.”
The diplomat also noted that Yerevan would welcome even a gradual opening of the Turkish-Armenian border by Ankara. “But it must be said that there has been no progress on this issue,” he said.
Erdogan and other Turkish officials have reiterated in recent months that the border’s opening is conditional on a resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict that would be acceptable to Azerbaijan, Turkey’s closest regional ally. The Turks are also demanding a halt to the increasingly successful Armenian campaign for international recognition of the 1915 genocide.