ANKARA (AFP) – Turkish Foreign Minister Ali Babacan Wednesday said he was trying to organize a meeting with counterparts from Armenia and Azerbaijan to discuss decades-old disputes plaguing ties between them.
The idea, Babacan said, emerged during a historic visit to Yereven by President Abdullah Gul on Saturday, which raised hopes that Turkey and Armenia could overcome traditional enmity and establish diplomatic relations.
“We have many reasons to be hopeful, the most important of which is the presence of a strong political will to improve ties,” the minister said in an interview with NTV television.
Babacan and Armenian Foreign Minister Eduard Nalbandian are already scheduled to meet on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York later this month.
Babacan said he suggested that their Azeri counterpart also join the meeting and Nalbandian agreed.
“We will now seek Azerbaijan’s consent… The problems between Turkey and Armenia are not independent from the problems between Azerbaijan and Armenia,” he said.
The issue would be discussed when Gul visits Baku later Wednesday, he said.
Turkey has refused to establish diplomatic ties with eastern neighbor Armenia to force Armenia to end its campaign for the recognition of Armenian Genocide.
In 1993, Turkey dealt a heavy economic blow to its impoverished neighbor by shutting the border in a show of solidarity with its close ally Azerbaijan, then at war with Armenia over Nagorno-Karabakh — an Armenian region in Azerbaijan, which declared independence at the breakup of the Soviet Union.
Babacan said Gul’s visit to Armenia, the first by a Turkish head of state, had raised hopes that the two sides could mend fences.
“In our talks in Yereven we decided to speed up the process (of reconciliation)… We are entering a period in which we will have frequent contacts,” he told NTV.
Gul traveled to Yereven for several hours to watch a World Cup qualifying football match between Turkey and Armenia following an invitation by his counterpart Serzh Sarkisian.