YEREVAN (RFE/RL–BBC)–Armenian papers ran an interview with President Robert Kocharian who spoke Sunday on his way back from Yalta after a summit of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation. His meeting with Turkish President Suleyman Demirel was "pretty frank."I told him that the relationship between our countries shouldn’t be held hostage by other issues or problems with our countries," meaning Azerbaijan. "Turkey and Armenia’should first agree on what their problems are. We should try to find ways of settling those problems."
Aboard the plane returning from Ukraine to Turkey–Demirel commented on his meeting with President Kocharian–reported the BBC.
Demirel said–"I said to him: If you want to establish good relations with Turkey–you must work towards peace. I am telling you this–because this is exactly what I told your predecessors.
"I repeat–Turkey does not have a direct problem with Armenia. Turkey is a peaceful country. There is no point in extracting hostility from history–because we are building a future."
According to Demirel–Kocharian said that "Turkey should not link its relations to the Azerbaijan issue–that Turkey should open its border without any connection with the Azerbaijan issue–and that Azerbaijan and Turkey should normalize their relations (with Armenia)."
"I–in turn–told him," said Demirel–"Before you came to power in Armenia–the Minsk Group was about to adopt a decision. The decision called for the return of refugees to their homes and for the withdrawal of the Armenia’s from the territories they occupied. This was to be a step. It would have been very good if you had taken such a step–but you did not.
"I clearly told him that peace in the Caucasus is extremely important. If you serve the cause of peace in the Caucasus–you will gain a great deal–but it is up to you. Turkey is a great country–and if you normalize your relations with Turkey–you will benefit from it."
According to Demirel–Kocharian responded–"There was a painful situation in the past."
Demirel added–"The exact phrase used was: in the past. Was this situation between the Turkish Republic and the Armenian Republic? The Armenian Republic is only six years old. The Turkish Republic is 75 years old–and all these years were peaceful ones. One must extract friendship–not hostility–from history."
Kocharian also said he "exchanged thoughts with [Azeri President] Haydar Aliyev" on the Nagorno-Karabakh peace process. Kocharian said it was too early to say that French President Jacques Chirac’s stated readiness to agree to the package strategy on Karabakh means an important change in the Minsk Group’s position.
Regarding the government crisis in Nagorno-Karabakh–Kocharian said "things will be sorted out within a week. Yes–there was a minor problem there but it has been much publicized because of the delay in dealing with it." The new Karabakh government will embark on "structural changes," according to Kocharian.