By Emil Danielyan
The foreign ministers of Turkey and Armenia will discuss the possibility of reopening the border between their two estranged countries when they meet in Iceland next Tuesday, according to a report in a government-linked Turkish newspaper.
Citing “well-informed sources,” the English-language “Turkish Daily News” claimed on Thursday that “important steps are expected to be taken for the opening of the closed border between Turkey and Armenia” at the meeting between Foreign Ministers Ismail Cem and Vartan Oskanian.
The paper said Turkish and Armenian diplomats have been holding “secret talks” to prepare for the meeting which is due to take place in Reykjavik, the capital of Iceland. Top Turkish diplomats briefed Cem on the results of the confidential contacts on Wednesday, it added.
The TDN report contrasted sharply with remarks made by Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Devlet Bahceli in Baku on Tuesday. Bahceli, who leads the hard-line Nationalist Movement Party, told Azerbaijani President Heydar Aliev that Ankara will not lift its blockade of Armenia until the Armenians relinquish control over Nagorno-Karabakh.
"Azerbaijan is a very important country for Turkey,” he told Turkish reporters on his return to Ankara. “Along with the history, language and origin unity, Azerbaijan is Turkey's door to the Turkic world and the key Caucasus region.”
Bahceli thus reaffirmed the position of successive Turkish governments which have linked the normalization of relations with Armenia to the settlement of the Karabakh conflict.
Cem and Oskanian already met earlier this year on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in New York. Oskanian said afterwards that the two governments could launch direct contacts in a bid to ease bilateral tensions.