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News Analysis: Turkey, Armenia tend to mend bilateral ties

English.news.cn   2013-12-12 23:55:13            

ANKARA, Dec. 12 (Xinhua) -- Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu traveled to Armenia on Thursday in his first diplomatic visit to the country since normalization talks between the two countries failed in 2009, though analysts doubt the meeting will improve relations.

At the invitation of his counterpart Eduard Nalbandyan, Davutoglu visited Yerevan to attend Organization of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation (BSEC) meeting.

BSEC is a regional organization with headquarters based in the Turkish coastal city of Istanbul. It was started in 1992 as a Turkish-led initiative to promote economic and political cooperation in the Black Sea region.

"There are outstanding issues between Turkey and Armenia that are not resolved at all and this makes it difficult to move for the normalization of ties between the two countries," Mesut Cevikalp, foreign policy analyst based in the Turkish capital of Ankara, told Xinhua. He added the visit may provide an opportunity for Turkey to do a public relations campaign while forcing Armenia to reciprocate Ankara's overtures.

Turkey closed its border with Armenia in 1993 as a reaction to Armenia's occupation of some 20 percent of its territory in Nagorno-Karabakh region a year earlier.

A reconciliation process was started between Turkey and Armenia in 2009, when the two sides signed in Zurich protocols to normalize diplomatic relations.

However, the ratification of the protocols was shelved after they were unable to settle the Nagorno-Karabakh issue.

Davutoglu and Nalbandyan held an hour and a half private meeting on the sidelines of BSEC meeting.

Speaking at the BSEC meeting, Nalbandyan ruled out any precondition for the resumption of Turkish-Armenian ties, stressing that there should not be any linkage between other issues and the normalization process.

Turkey said it would only open its border when Armenia withdraws from the Nagorno-Karabakh region and seven adjacent territories.

Yasar Yakis, a former Turkish foreign minister, says that Turkey and Armenia need to do everything in their power to find a solution to the disputes while paying attention to sensitivities of third parties.

"Previously, due to Azerbaijan's opposition, their reconciliation couldn't be realized. Now the sides should take lessons from the past. And if they act according to these lessons, the chances for peace will be higher," he said.

However, the situation remains thorny. Turkey partially depends on Azerbaijan for natural gas and oil supplies. Azerbaijan is also a major investor in Turkey and maintains a strong pro-Azeri lobby in Turkey.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said last month that Ankara is committed to a settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute between Azerbaijan and Armenia, saying that "Karabakh is not just Azerbaijan's problem, but also Turkey's problem."

Nagorno-Karabakh dispute was also discussed on the sidelines of Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe's (OSCE) ministerial council in Kiev last week.

During the OSCE meeting in Kiev, Davutoglu met with Azeri counterpart Elmar Mammadyarov and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov for the talks on the Nagorno-Karabakh issue. Although, Davutoglu did not hold a bilateral meeting with Armenian foreign minister in Kiev reportedly due to his busy schedule.

The Turkish foreign minister's visit came at a time in which Turkey has accelerated its efforts to find a path to permanent peace in the Caucasus. He said that he hopes his visit to Yerevan will contribute to efforts for comprehensive peace and economic stability in BSEC region, and especially in the Caucasus.

If Armenia reads this visit positively, a new process may start between the two countries," Mehmet Fatih Oztarsu, an expert on Armenia, said. Although this development is unlikely as Armenia signaled it will not be revisiting Davutoglu's stand on issues concerning Turkey.

Speaking to the Turkish press, Armenian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Tigran Balayan said Yerevan sent invitations to the ministers of all BSEC member states and signaled that nothing more than should be read about Davutoglu's visit. "In terms of Armenian-Turkish relations, we have signed protocols; the only (further) move could be the ratification and implementation of those protocols," he said.

In a sign that Armenia will not alter its position, Yerevan officials have challenged Davutoglu on the eve of his visit.

Armenian Deputy Foreign Minister Shavarsh Kocharyan said over the weekend that Davutoglu should visit the Armenian Genocide Memorial in Yerevan instead of making provocative statements.

Turkey denies that the killings of Armenians during World War I amounted to genocide, saying that both sides have suffered causalities in the war and there were no deliberate policies targeting Armenians.

Genocide claims are very sensitive issue in Turkey and no government has dared to address the claims raised by Armenia for events in 1915.

Editor: yan
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