Feridun Sinirlioglu, the Turkish Foreign Ministry undersecretary, met Sarkisian and Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian to discuss the current state of the stalled Turkish-Armenian normalization process and ways of salvaging it.
Sarkisian’s office said Sinirlioglu conveyed to the Armenian president Erdogan’s request for face-to-face talks on the sidelines of an nuclear security summit that will take place in Washington on April 12-13. Both leaders are due to attend the summit.
A statement by the office did not specify whether Sarkisian accepted the offer. It only cited him as saying that Armenia expects “practical steps” from Turkey that would “guarantee a decisive movement in the process of normalizing relations without preconditions.”
Armenia -- Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian (R) meets with Turkish Foreign Ministry Undersecretary Feridun Sinirlioglu in Yerevan, 7 April 2010.
The Armenian Foreign Ministry said Nalbandian likewise told the visiting envoy that Ankara should move to unconditionally implement the fence-mending protocols signed by the two governments last October.
“The Turkish side assured us that they want the process of normalizing Turkish-Armenian relations to continue,” Nalbandian told the Armenian parliament later in the day. “The Armenian side reaffirmed its position and approaches that are in tune with the expectations of the international community, which expects from Turkey practical steps in this direction.”
The presidential press office also said Sinirlioglu assured Sarkisian that the Turkish government is committed to ensuring further progress in the Turkish-Armenian rapprochement. It gave no further details.
Speaking to reporters in Paris where he is on a one-day visit, Erdogan said he sent a letter to Sarkisian through his envoy underlining his government's commitment to see the normalization deal to fruition. “We will always show our loyalty to the signatures that we put down [under the deal.] It is out of the question for us to take a step back unless there is an extraordinary situation,” Erdogan said in remarks broadcast on Turkish television. “I hope [the reconciliation process] will end positively.”
An unnamed senior Turkish Foreign Ministry official told AFP news agency ahead of Sinirlioglu’s visit that the envoy “will reassert Turkey's commitment to the [reconciliation] process but will also convey our concerns.” The official did not elaborate on those concerns.
Erdogan and other Turkish leaders have made clear that the Turkish parliament will not ratify the protocols until a breakthrough in international efforts to resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Yerevan has responded by threatening to walk away from the agreements.
It remains unclear, however, just how long the Sarkisian administration is ready to wait for Turkish ratification. According to some Turkish newspapers, Ankara hopes that the United States will press it not to scrap the agreements.
The Turkish official cited by AFP said Sinirligolu will also discuss in Yerevan “steps that need to be taken to ensure that the process moves forward.” The official also confirmed that Sinirlioglu will prepare the ground for a meeting between the Turkish and Armenian leaders in Washington.