YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–In a rare letter to his Armenian counterpart, Turkey’s President Abdullah Gul joined world leaders on Tuesday in congratulating Armenia on the 19th anniversary of its declaration of independence from the Soviet Union.
President Serzh Sarkisian’s press office did not publicize the text of the letter or report any of its details. There was no word on it on Gul’s website.
A source in the Armenian presidential administration told RFE/RL’s Armenian service that the “extensive” message expressed hope that the Turkish-Armenian normalization protocols signed a year ago will “serve as the basis” for future relations between the two neighboring states. The protocols commit them to establish diplomatic relations and open their border, which Turkey had closed in 1993 in solidarity with Azerbaijan.
The source also quoted Gul as saying that the resolution of regional conflicts would allow the two historical foes to establish “good-neighborly” ties. That was yet another indication that the Turkish government continues to link parliamentary ratification of the protocols with a settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict acceptable to Azerbaijan.
A Turkish Foreign Ministry official told RFE/RL’s Armenian service on Friday that, “We hope that there could be gestures and some movements on the Armenian side so that our parliament can go ahead and approve this important document,” he said.
Yerevan has repeatedly rejected such “preconditions.” Armenian leaders argue that neither protocol makes any reference to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
The signing of the protocols in Zurich in October 2009 was the culmination of a dramatic Turkish-Armenian rapprochement that began with Gul’s historic September 2008 visit to Yerevan. The Turkish president was invited by Sarkisian to attend a first-ever game between the two countries’ national soccer teams.
The two leaders watched the return leg of the match in the Turkish city of Bursa a year later. “We are not writing history, we are making history,” Gul declared during their talks held there.
The normalization process fizzled out in the following months as Ankara reverted to its Karabakh linkage and protested against the Armenian Constitutional Court’s interpretation of the Western-backed agreements. Sarkisian responded by accusing the Turks of reneging on the deal and freezing its ratification process in the Armenian parliament.