After months of upbeat statements, President Serzh Sarkisian signaled on Monday his frustration with Turkey’s failure so far to unconditionally normalize relations with Armenia despite concessions made by him.
“We want to eliminate closed borders remaining in Europe and to build normal relationships without preconditions,” he said, commenting on Turkish-Armenian relations after talks with the visiting President Demetris Christofias of Cyprus. “But in that endeavor, we do not intend to allow [anyone] to use the negotiating process for misleading the international community.”
“Unfortunately, in our case, failure to honor mutual agreements leads to greater distrust and a deeper gap and requires much greater efforts in the future,” said Sarkisian. He did not go into further details.
Sarkisian and his foreign minister, Eduard Nalbandian, have until now sounded cautiously optimistic about prospects for the establishment of diplomatic relations between Armenia and Turkey and the reopening of their border. Both men have effectively downplayed Ankara’s renewed linkage between Turkish-Armenian reconciliation and the resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
The Armenian president has been under fire from his political opponents over a lack of tangible results in Armenia’s unprecedented rapprochement with Turkey that began shortly after he took office in April 2008. He faced particularly strong criticism at home and in the worldwide Armenian Diaspora in late April after Ankara and Yerevan announced a still unpublicized “roadmap” to normalizing bilateral ties.
The announcement came on the eve of the annual remembrance of more than one million Armenians massacred by the Ottoman Turks during World War One. The timing is believed to have made it easier for U.S. President Barack Obama to backtrack on his pledges to officially recognize the massacres as genocide.
Sarkisian’s harshest critics have accused him of willingly sacrificing U.S. recognition of the Armenian genocide without securing the lifting of the 16-year Turkish blockade of Armenia. They have also condemned his apparent acceptance of a Turkish proposal to form a commission of historians that would look into the 1915 mass killings and deportations of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire.
Armenia -- President Serzh Sarkisian (R) meets with his Cypriot counterpart Demetris Christofias in Yerevan on July 6, 2009.
Speaking at a news conference with Christofias, Sarkisian said they discussed the Turkish-Armenian dialogue and the Karabakh conflict in addition to issues related to bilateral ties. In a joint statement, the two leaders said they will strive to deepen the Armenian-Cypriot relationship.
Christofias voiced support for Armenia’s efforts to forge closer links with the European Union, of which Cyprus is a member. “Armenia can regard Cyprus as its envoy to the European Union,” he said.