YEREVAN (Azatutyun.am)—Armenia has asked Russia to mediate in the normalization of its relations with Turkey, an Armenian Foreign Ministry spokesman said on Monday.
Vahan Hunanyan told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service that a number of Armenia’s partners, including Russia, have expressed readiness to mediate in Turkish-Armenian normalization and the Armenian side has asked Moscow to be a go-between.
“A number of international partners, including Russia, have stated that they are ready to support the Armenian-Turkish settlement process. And we have informed Russia that we are ready to start the Armenian-Turkish settlement process without preconditions. When and if such a process starts, naturally, we will provide information on that,” Hunanyan said.
In August, the leaders of Armenia and Turkey spoke about “positive signals” coming from the other side of the border. In September, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan even revealed that through Georgia’s prime minister, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan had offered him to meet. He added, however, that for such a meeting to take place, Yerevan had to take “clear steps” towards “[opening] the Zangezur corridor [for Azerbaijan].”
Shortly afterwards Pashinyan reiterated through a spokesperson that Armenia does not accept what he called ‘corridor logic’ in unblocking transport links in the region, but added that Yerevan was ready for contacts with Ankara.
According to the Armenian Foreign Ministry spokesman, no direct talks have taken place between Yerevan and Ankara yet.
In a recent interview with Le Figaro Armenian Foreign Minister Ararat Mirzoyan said that Ankara was setting new conditions for starting a dialogue with Yerevan, including the provision of an exterritorial corridor that would connect Azerbaijan and its exclave of Nakhichevan.
Mirzoyan told the French daily that the demand for such a corridor was out of the question.
“States must allow transit while maintaining sovereignty over their territory,” he said. “All transport links in the region must be reopened.”
Foreign Ministry spokesman Hunanyan said that Mirzoyan’s remarks were based “on public statements made by Turkey about the so-called Zangezur corridor.”
“They [Turks] have constantly raised this subject at the level of both the president and the foreign minister. And we say that such a thing cannot happen. However, as I mentioned, there have been no negotiations,” the official added.
As of Monday the Turkish Foreign Ministry has not responded to a request by RFE/RL’s Armenian Service for a comment regarding this issue.
Oriental-studies expert David Hovhannisyan, who has a diplomatic rank of ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary, believes that Turkey strives to take advantage of the current weakness of Armenia, trying to resolve an issue that is of strategic importance for it — getting a direct land connection with Azerbaijan.
“We should discuss everything, because maybe those conditions are not set so strictly, or maybe there are opportunities to maneuver. But the red line for us should be the extent to which this or that precondition creates problems for our sovereignty. If it creates a problem, then it is unacceptable. And the notion of a corridor, naturally, creates a problem,” Hovhannisyan told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service.
Opening transportation links in the region is part of the Russia-brokered cease-fire agreement that ended 44 days of fighting between Azerbaijan and Armenia over Nagorno-Karabakh last November.
A corresponding provision in the agreement also talks about Azerbaijan’s access to Nakhichevan via Armenia that would be controlled by Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB). Armenia, however, points to the fact that the provision has no reference to a corridor.
Visiting Yerevan on November 5, Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister Alexey Overchuk confirmed that decisions for the future regional unblocking “are based on the notion that the countries will retain sovereignty over roads passing through their territory.”