YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–Yerevan remains hopeful that it will normalize relations with Turkey soon despite repeated announcements by Ankara that it will not open its border with Armenia unless the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is resolved to Azerbaijan’s satisfaction, Foreign Minister Eduard Nalbandian said on Sunday.
He also pointedly declined to deny that the Armenian government has accepted a Turkish proposal to set up a joint commission of historians to review the events of 1915. When asked by journalists to comment on statements to that effect made by U.S. and Turkish officials, Nalbandian said, “In order to develop [Turkish-Armenian] relations we intend to create a intergovernmental commission that will deal with numerous issues of interest to the two sides.”
Testifying before a U.S. congressional subcommittee last week, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Philip Gordon said that the formation of a historical commission is part of a Turkish-Armenian “roadmap” agreement announced in late April.
Turkish leaders have said in the past that the joint Turkish-Armenian study should specifically determine whether the Armenian massacres constituted a genocide. Former President Robert Kocharian dismissed the idea as a Turkish ploy designed to keep more countries from recognizing the genocide.
But Kocharian’s successor, Serzh Sarkisian, indicated shortly after taking office last year that he does not object to the Turkish proposal in principle. In an April interview with “The Wall Street Journal,” Sarkisian effectively acknowledged that Yerevan agreed to the establishment of a “historical sub-commission” during its fence-mending negotiations with Ankara.
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and other Turkish leaders have since made clear that this is not enough for completing the normalization process. They have said that Turkey will not establish diplomatic relations and reopen its border with Armenia before a resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict acceptable to Azerbaijan.
Like some U.S. officials, Nalbandian seemed to suggest that the Turkish statements do not preclude the implementation of the “roadmap” deal. “If there is a desire to solve issues by diplomatic means, then that can be done through negotiations, agreements reached as a result of those negotiations and the implementation of those agreements,” he told a joint news conference with Sheikh Abdullah Bin Zayed al-Nahyan, the visiting foreign minister of the United Arab Emirates.
“I think that we do have such an opportunity with regard to the normalization of Turkish-Armenian relations,” added Nalbandian. “And Armenia will continue its efforts in that direction.”