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CAUCASUS >Turkey eyes Karabakh step from Armenia to open ways

ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News

Turkey offers for Armenia to take part in its regional transportation project linking Europe to Asia, if there are concrete developments in solving the thorny issue of Nagorno-Karabakh with Baku

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Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan and his wife Rita walk to a poling station in Yerevan. AFP photo

Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan and his wife Rita walk to a poling station in Yerevan. AFP photo

    Serkan DemirtaşSerkan Demirtaşserkan.demirtas@hdn.com.tr

    Turkey has proposed that Armenia take part in its comprehensive regional transportation project linking Europe to Asia, if there are concrete developments in solving Nagorno-Karabakh dispute with Azerbaijan, reflecting a political will to build a win-win situation for all countries in the southern Caucasus in a post-conflict era.

    “We are trying to activate the OSCE Minsk Group for the solution of the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute. We introduced the Integrated Transportation Corridors Project to the Minsk Group in November 2012. This project is to be implemented in peace time and particularly after Armenia moves on with regard to its occupation in seven regions bordering Nagorno-Karabakh,” Turkish diplomatic sources told the Hürriyet Daily News recently. “We are proposing full normalization of ties between Turkey-Armenia and Armenia-Azerbaijan.”

    Armenia’s occupation of Azerbaijan’s Nagorno-Karabakh and seven regions bordering the territory since early 1990s stands as the main hurdle in front of regional stability and prosperity. Turkey supported Azerbaijan and sealed its borders with Armenia in a move further fueling already strained ties over the latter’s campaign to have the 1915 killings of Armenians at the hands of the Ottoman Empire recognized as genocide by the international community.

    HDN

    Armenia may be a part of the global
    railway network through the Baku-
    Tbilisi-Kars line if  Turkey opens the
    existing route between Kars and
    Armenia’s Gyumri.

    Turkey’s recent move to reconcile with Armenia was nixed due to strong Azeri reaction in 2010, which caused suspension of the ratification of two key protocols for establishing diplomatic relations and opening the sealed borders. Turkey has since re-focused on seeking ways to activate the almost futile Minsk Group, under the Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), for pushing Azerbaijan and Armenia to agree on a peace plan.

    Within this framework, Turkey introduced its Integrated Transportation Corridors Project to the Minsk Group on Nov. 8, 2012 during a meeting in Vienna attended by three co-chair countries, France, Russia and the United States. “It has received a positive response from all Minsk Group countries,” sources told the Daily News. “We have made clear to them this project is aiming at creating a peace perspective to the benefit of all relevant parties.”

    Railways, roads, cities

    The proposed transportation project has two phases. On the one hand it is focused on linking Turkey, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Russia Federation through fixing unused railways and building new ones. Along with the Kars-Tbilisi-Baku railway project that is expected to be concluded by the end of this year, the Turkey-Armenia railway may be re-opened after just a minor rehabilitation. Parallel to the railway, a new modern highway is also being considered to further increase trade and human traffic between the two countries.

    “Obviously, we are also planning to build new logistical centers and residential areas, as well as mass housing projects along these routes to create a new regional hub,” sources stressed. “The only objective of this project is to create an economic pick-up in the region, for the advantage of all countries and for the prosperity of their people.”

    In consideration with the economic prospects and strategic importance that the outer region of the Caucasus offers, Turkey’s project also addresses the need to link regional countries to Europe and Asia. A transportation line between London and Beijing will soon be possible with the conclusion of the Marmaray Project and the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railroad, while normalization of the political situation in the region would also allow Armenia to join this growing strategic picture, sources close to the project claim.

    Azerbaijan is informed about the project

    Known for its suspicion of potential Turkish-Armenian reconciliation, Azerbaijan has been informed about the content of the project by Turkey. “They know what we want. We have made clear them that this is a project that will be implemented only after Armenia moves towards peace,” Azerbaijani sources stressed.

    Armenia, however, has so far remained cool to Turkey’s project, and has not conveyed an official reaction through the Minsk Group.

    After President Serzh Sargisyan’s victory in last week’s elections, Turkey does not expect an immediate change in Armenia’s policies on the Nagorno-Karabakh problem. “We don’t anticipate a substantial change in their policies until 2015,” Turkish sources stated.

    Armenia and its organized diaspora communities are actively campaigning for an overall recognition of 1915 killings as genocide across the world in the centennial commemoration of the incident.

    February/23/2013

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