By Astghik Bedevian
Official Yerevan elaborated Wednesday on its stated support for Turkey’s membership in the European Union, saying that the bloc should link it to an unconditional normalization of Turkish-Armenian relations.
Prime Minister Serzh Sarkisian said last week that Turkey’s eventual accession to the EU would benefit Armenia and could contribute to a resolution of long-standing Turkish-Armenian disputes. “Maybe the problems between us could find a solution within an EU framework,” he told “The Financial Times” during a visit to Brussels.
Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian echoed Sarkisian’s statements, saying that Turkey’s entry to the EU “would be good for us in the political, economic and moral senses.” But he made it clear that Armenia believes it should happen only after Ankara drops its preconditions for establishing diplomatic relations with Yerevan and opening the Turkish-Armenian border. He said his government is worried that the EU will be more lenient towards the Turks than it was towards the former Communist states of Eastern Europe.
“Our concern is whether the EU will be as fair and demanding as it was towards other [nations seeking EU membership] or will take a political decision on Turkey’s membership for other considerations,” Oskanian told parliamentary hearings on Turkish-Armenian relations that began in Yerevan on Wednesday.
“Any country would want its neighbor to be predictable and act within the framework of a clear value system,” agreed parliament speaker Tigran Torosian, who is also a leading member of Sarkisian’s Republican Party (HHK). But he rejected Turkish demands that the Armenian Diaspora stop campaigning for international recognition of the Armenian genocide and Turkey’s compliance with EU standards.
While the EU stands for an unconditional normalization of Turkish-Armenian relations, it has not included the issue on the agenda of its accession talks with Ankara. Peter Semneby, the EU’s special representative to the South Caucasus, avoided any criticism of the Turkish policy on Armenia as he spoke during the hearings organized by the Armenian parliament’s foreign relations committee. He said instead that Yerevan should not be worried about growing Turkish presence in the region.
“It’s in Armenia’s interests that Turkey plays a larger role in the South Caucasus and that it gets a stake in the well being of the whole region,” Semneby said.
Also invited to the two-day hearings were two dozen prominent Turks, including Foreign Minister Ali Babacan and Nobel Prize-winning novelist Orhan Pamuk. But none of them accepted the invitation.