These are edited excerpts of a transcript of an interview with Turkey Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, conducted through a translator on Sunday, Oct. 3.
WSJ: Are you confident that the protocol on reopening the border with Armenia will be signed on Saturday and is it contingent on progress on the Nagorno Karabakh issue at the meeting between the Armenian and Azerbaijani presidents on Saturday?
Reccep Tayyip Erdogan: Thank you for the question I’m very glad you asked this question. Our foreign minister is going to sign this agreement with the Armenian foreign minister [Eduard] Nalbandian on Oct. 10, if there is no negative development on the part of the Armenians from today until the 10th of October, I don’t see any problem with signing of this agreement, because as the world has known and will see again we always stick to our promises. So, so long as there is no change to the text, we are ready as it is now to sign the agreement.
We’d also like to see the Minsk group [an international grouping that oversees peace talks on Nagorno Karabakh] witness the signing of this agreement actually — and if the French don’t come perhaps the Americans or the Russians will come. And in addition to that the meeting in Moldova is very important because although the Armenians sometimes say this agreement has nothing to do with the Azeris, there is in fact a relationship. Because most recently, I believe when president Sarkisian was on an international visit, he was faced by a reaction from the Armenian Diaspora. So what he does in face of the reaction of the Diaspora is very important. If he can stand firm, and if it is the government of Armenia and not the Armenian Diaspora that is determining policy in Armenia, then I think that we can move forward. As far as we’re concerned there is no problem. But it is up to the government in Armenia.
As for the parliament … of course as is the case in any democratic country, in any democratic parliament, what governments do is they prepare a draft, they send it to the parliament, and there is a secret ballot on that and everyone will vote in the way they want to vote, and there is no way one can control that. This in fact happened a few years back on the first of March — what we call the parliamentary motion of the first of March — where the government prepared a motion, sent it to the parliament, but it was not ratified, it did not get a majority of votes in the parliament and could not be passed. I became prime minister after that parliamentary motion was sent to the parliament, this was back in 2003, when we presented a new draft, this was about troops into Iraq. At the time the second draft….got the necessary votes in parliament, but our American friends and our brothers in Iraq did not want to have troops cross into Iraq by the time the second motion passed, so the second draft was not put into practice. ..
What is important and I would like to underline this, because this is perhaps the most important point is that Armenia should not allow its policies to be taken hostage by the Armenian Diaspora. It should be up to the government to carry out its policies. And in that context the Moldova meeting is very important on Nagorno Karabakh, because if you look at Nagorno Karabakh and where it stands today there aren’t in fact too many more issues left to be resolved. There are out of seven regions, five that have been resolved and two, Lachin and Kelbajar to be exact, where there is an issue with the size. If those issues can be resolved there could be a positive result. So all in all there is in fact a move for the better. But we have taken our positive steps. We have been taking pos steps for some time. For example we have allowed flights between Yerevan and Istanbul, cargo flights are free to travel. And we have about 40000 Armenians who live in turkey, who came from Armenia, who do not have the necessary legal papers. We do not send them back, we allow them to stay.
So all of these are important messages actually…
WSJ: so is signature on the 10th of October contingent on progress at the meeting in Moldova?
R.T.E.: The agreement will be signed on the 10th. It doesn’t have anything to do with what happens in Moldova. But of course a positive development in Moldova will definitely have a positive impact on the process altogether.