YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–President Serzh Sarkisian insisted on Friday that Turkey may still agree to unconditionally normalize relations with Armenia soon despite its leaders’ renewed linkage between Turkish-Armenian reconciliation and the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
Sarkisian dismissed as too “pessimistic” his critics’ belief that Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s recent public pronouncements on the issue preclude the success of the year-long dialogue between the two neighboring nations.
“I believe that Turkey still retains its great chance to show the international community and citizens of Armenia that it is a modern country, that it is guided by modern standards, principles of international law. And so in my view, it is still too early to draw conclusions,” added Sarkisian.
Erdogan has stated on numerous occasions in recent weeks that Turkey will not establish diplomatic relations and reopen the border with Armenia as long as the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict remains unresolved. His statements have been endorsed by Turkey’s powerful military.
“[Armenian] occupation of Karabakh is the cause here and closing of the border is the effect. It is impossible for us to open the border unless that occupation ends,” the Turkish premier said during an official visit to Azerbaijan last week.
The Turkish Prime Minister’s remarks earned him criticism on Monday when the French co-chair of the OSCE Minsk Group mediating the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict warned Turkey to drop its ongoing efforts to link the normalization of its relations with Armenia to a Nagorno-Karabakh resolution. “The normalization of Armenia-Turkey relations should not be confused with the Karabakh conflict,” French Ambassador Bernard Fassier said in Ankara on Monday. “These are different and parallel processes.”
Fassier said that Armenia and Azerbaijan are closer than ever to a compromise solution and linking the Karabakh peace process with Turkey’s negotiations with Armenia can jeopardize the new momentum in the talks.
Armenia has also criticized Erdogan for making the normalization of Turkish-Armenian relations conditional on a Nagorno-Karabakh settlement, saying that such statements could hamper both the Armenian-Azerbaijani, as well as the Armenian-Turkish negotiations.
Sarkisian, and his foreign minister, Eduard Nalbandian have expressed concern that Erdogan’s stance could hamper both the Armenian-Azerbaijani, as well as the Armenian-Turkish negotiations.
But leaders have so far commented on the implications of Erdogan’s stance for the implementation of a U.S.-brokered “roadmap” to the normalization to Turkish-Armenian relations. The document has still not been publicized by Ankara and Yerevan.
The Armenian president is facing growing domestic criticism over his conciliatory policy toward Turkey. The Armenian Revolutionary Federation says Sarkisian has helped the Turks scuttle an official U.S. recognition of the 1915 Armenian genocide while failing to secure the lifting of Turkey’s 16-year economic blockade of Armenia. The government’s approach to the talks with Turkey, according to the ARF, have also given Ankara a chance to manipulate the Nagorno-Karabakh peace process by positioning itself as an actor in the negotiations.
Sarkisian was speaking on Friday at a joint news conference with Croatia’s visiting President Stjepan Mesic. His office said the two leaders agreed on the need for the establishment of “normal relations between states without preconditions.”
Mesic, whose country went through a bloody war following the break-up of Yugoslavia, expressed hope that Armenia will eventually make peace with both Turkey and Azerbaijan. “It’s better to negotiate for ten years than to fight for ten days,” he told journalists.