By Astghik Bedevian
Armenia is encouraged by Turkey’s latest offers of a “dialogue” and thinks that the two neighboring states should kick-start and step up their efforts to normalize bilateral relations, Foreign Minister Eduard Nalbandian said on Thursday.
“We should not work the way we did in the past because we failed to solve our problems and normalize relations,” he told RFE/RL. “We should work with a new style.”
Nalbandian said official Yerevan finds “quite positive” congratulatory messages sent by Turkish leaders to their newly elected or appointed Armenian counterparts in recent weeks. “I hope that they will be followed by positive steps,” he said.
Turkey’s President Abdullah Gul was one of the first foreign leaders to congratulate Serzh Sarkisian on his controversial victory in Armenia’s February 19 presidential election. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Foreign Minister Ali Babacan sent similar letters to their opposite numbers in Yerevan late last month. They both said Ankara is ready to engage in dialogue with Yerevan to address problems hampering the normalization of Turkish-Armenian ties. According to the Armenian government’s press service, Erdogan told Prime Minister Tigran Sarkisian that “certain steps could be taken in the process of normalizing bilateral relations.”
“I would like to reaffirm the Armenian government’s commitment to constructive dialogue and the establishment of normal relations without preconditions,” Sarkisian said in a written reply to the Turkish premier. He said “personal contacts” between Armenian and Turkish leaders would facilitate a rapprochement between their estranged nations.
Nalbandian, who was appointed as foreign minister less than a month ago, said he reacted to Babacan’s letter in a similarly “positive way.” “I think that we don’t need mediators and must talk directly,” he said. “We are ready to talk frankly and openly and to discuss all outstanding issues.”
“I don’t think the Turks have preconditions for holding negotiations,” added the former Armenian ambassador to France. “I hope that both sides will show a very serious and constructive approaches.”
Turkey has long linked the establishment of diplomatic relations and the opening of its border with Armenia with a resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict that would be acceptable to Azerbaijan, its closest ally. Successive Turkish governments have also demanded an end to the decades-long Armenian campaign for international recognition of the 1915-1918 mass killings of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire as genocide.
In an April 24 address to the nation, President Sarkisian made it clear that Yerevan will step up support for the genocide recognition effort spearheaded by influential Armenian communities in Europe and the United States. “While keeping alive the holy memory of the innocent victims, we are ready to establish normal relations with Turkey without any preconditions as early as tomorrow,” he said.
(Photolur photo: Eduard Nalbandian.)