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Turkey ‘May Yet Mend Ties With Armenia’


Armenia -- Presidents Serzh Sarkisian of Armenia (R) and Stjepan Mesic of Croatia hold a news conference in Yerevan on May 22, 2009.

Armenia -- Presidents Serzh Sarkisian of Armenia (R) and Stjepan Mesic of Croatia hold a news conference in Yerevan on May 22, 2009.

President Serzh Sarkisian insisted on Friday that Turkey may still agree to unconditionally normalize relations with Armenia soon despite its leaders’ renewed linkage between Turkish-Armenian reconciliation and the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

Sarkisian dismissed as too “pessimistic” his critics’ belief that Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s recent public pronouncements on the issue preclude the success of the year-long dialogue between the two neighboring nations.

“Solutions to difficult problems require one to make great efforts and follow a difficult path,” he said. “And as we follow that difficult path, it is obvious that both in Armenia and Turkey and other countries, there will be optimists and pessimists, who, lacking full information, may emotionally express their joy or discontent, optimism or pessimism. So just as I wasn’t very buoyed by optimists’ statements at the beginning [of the dialogue,] I am now not that disaffected or disappointed with pessimists’ statements.”

“I believe that Turkey still retains its great chance to show the international community and citizens of Armenia that it is a modern country, that it is guided by modern standards, principles of international law. And so in my view, it is still too early to draw conclusions,” added Sarkisian.

Erdogan has stated on numerous occasions in recent weeks that Turkey will not establish diplomatic relations and reopen the border with Armenia as long as the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict remains unresolved. His statements have been endorsed by Turkey’s powerful military.

“[Armenian] 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,” the Turkish premier said during an official visit to Azerbaijan last week.

Neither Sarkisian, nor other Armenian leaders have so far commented on the implications of Erdogan’s stance for the implementation of a U.S.-brokered “roadmap” to the normalization to Turkish-Armenian relations. The document has still not been publicized by Ankara and Yerevan.

The Armenian president is facing growing domestic criticism over his conciliatory policy toward Turkey. Opposition leaders say he has helped the Turks 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.

Armenia -- Presidents Serzh Sarkisian of Armenia (L) and Stjepan Mesic of Croatia meet in Yerevan on May 22, 2009.
Sarkisian was speaking on Friday at a joint news conference with Croatia’s visiting President Stjepan Mesic. His office said the two leaders agreed on the need for the establishment of “normal relations between states without preconditions.”

Mesic, whose country went through a bloody war following the break-up of Yugoslavia, expressed hope that Armenia will eventually make peace with both Turkey and Azerbaijan. “It’s better to negotiate for ten years than to fight for ten days,” he told journalists.

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