Official Yerevan remains hopeful that Turkey will agree to unconditionally normalize relations with Armenia, Foreign Minister Eduard Nalbandian said over the weekend.
Speaking at an international conference on regional security issues held in Yerevan, Nalbandian insisted that the governments of the two nations have made substantial progress towards the opening of the Turkish-Armenian border “without preconditions” in their fence-mending negotiations.
“The ball is in the Turkish side now,” he said. “And we hope that they will find the wisdom and the courage to make the last decisive step. We wish to be confident that the necessary political will can eventually leave behind the mentality of the past.”
The remarks came the day after Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan once again made clear that his country will not establish diplomatic relations and reopen the border with Armenia as long as the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict remains unresolved. Erdogan explicitly reaffirmed that linkage also during his visit to Azerbaijan earlier in the week.
“Occupation of Karabakh is the cause here and closing of the border is the effect. It is impossible for us to open the border unless that occupation ends," he told a joint news conference with Azerbaijan's President Ilham Aliev.
Nalbandian and President Serzh Sarkisian said on Thursday that such statements can only undermine the Karabakh peace process. But they declined to comment on implications of Erdogan’s stance for the success of the year-long Turkish-Armenian rapprochement.
The Armenian president is facing growing domestic criticism over his unprecedented overtures to Ankara. Opposition leaders say he has help the Turks to scuttle an official U.S. recognition of the 1915 Armenian genocide while failing to secure the lifting of Turkey’s 16-year economic blockade of Armenia.
In his speech, Nalbandian described relations with Turkey and the unresolved Karabakh conflict as the two main security challenges facing Armenia. “These challenges are different, and by no means interconnected, even if some would like to see a linkage or parallelism in their resolution,” he said.