By Emil Danielyan
A senior Turkish diplomat has confirmed reports that Ankara has set a new precondition for the normalization of its relations with Armenia by demanding that the latter give Azerbaijan an overland link with its Nakhichevan exclave under a future peace deal on Nagorno-Karabakh. Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit reportedly told the visiting US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld on June 6 that a “security corridor” passing through southeastern Armenia should be a key point of the peace settlement.
Ecevit, right, setting new precondition to Armenia
The Turkish government has made it clear previously that it will not establish diplomatic relations with Armenia until Yerevan ensures Karabakh’s return under Azerbaijani control and abandons its pursuit of international recognition of the 1915 Armenian genocide.
According to the BBC, the Turkish ambassador in Baku, Kadri Ecvet Tezcan, told the local ANS television channel on Wednesday that his country has indeed put forward a third precondition. “I cannot imagine Nakhichevan separated from the main part of Azerbaijan,” Tezcan said.
“Also, everybody remembers that the so-called [Armenian] region of Meghri was Azerbaijani land some time ago. This region was given to Armenia during Soviet times and consequently Nakhichevan and Azerbaijan were separated. That is why these two parts should be linked if any kind of peace is established. This is our opinion.”
The new Turkish demand was on Wednesday brushed aside as “unacceptable” and “nonsensical” by Armenian Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian. He said that Turkey can not make its relations with Armenia conditional on the latter’s ties with “a third country.”
But Tezcan argued that Turkey wants to be “closely involved” in the Karabakh issue because of its “love for the Azerbaijani people and because of international law.” “It is certain that normal relations are not possible with Armenia as long as this country holds the territory of other countries under occupation,” the envoy added.
Turkey is linked to Nakhichevan by a ten-kilometer strip of land. The Meghri corridor would provide it with a conduit to the rest of Azerbaijan and other Turkic-speaking republics of the former Soviet Union.
Following a wave of official recognitions of the 1915 genocide by several European parliaments late last year, Ankara signaled its intention to soften its policy on Armenia. But Oskanian claimed that the move has proved to be a public relations stunt aimed at staving off similar genocide resolutions by other Western legislatures.