Ankara to test waters for talks in Yerevan

Ankara to test waters for talks in Yerevan

ANKARA – Hürriyet Daily News
Ankara to test waters for talks in Yerevan

Armenain President Serg Sargisian (L) and Azerbaijani President İlham Aliyev held a meeting on the sidelines of the OSCE Summit in Vienna Nov 19. Foreign Minister Davutoğlu will be in Yerevan on Dec. 12, however, a bilateral meeting with his Armenian counterpart is yet to be scheduled. OSCE photo

A regional meeting is likely to be the venue for discussions between Turkish and Armenian politicians to break the current stalemate in the normalization process between the two estranged neighbors, as Turkey has recently voiced its intention to normalize ties with Armenia.

Ankara is expected to test the waters at first hand with Armenian officials in Yerevan about possible progress in talks for a settlement to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia, which could pave the way for rapprochement between Turkey and Armenia.

Although a bilateral meeting has not been scheduled yet, a meeting between Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu and his Armenian counterpart, Edward Nalbandian, is “highly possible” on the sidelines of a regional meeting, a Turkish Foreign Ministry official told the Hürriyet Daily News.

Davutoğlu will pay a visit to Yerevan on Dec. 12, to attend the ministerial meeting of the Organization for the Black Sea Economic Cooperation (BSEC). Speaking to reporters late on Dec. 5, he said the invitation had come from the Armenian side, and he accepted after consultations with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

“Turkey is one of the founding members of the organization. Its headquarters are located in Istanbul, where Armenia, which is a member of the organization, also has a representative. I received the invitation and decided to accept it after consultations,” Davutoğlu said.

However, the visit has more meaning than a regular BSEC meeting, as Turkey wants to ease the current stalemate with Armenia.

Turkey is preparing for the 100th anniversary of the 1915 events, which will be commemorated both in Armenia and by the Armenian Diaspora abroad in 2015 with grand ceremonies. The U.S.-based Armenian diaspora, in particular, seeks official recognition of the killings as genocide by the White House.

As the anniversary approaches, Ankara urges members of the Minsk group, the United States, Russia and Azerbaijan, to move forward for a settlement on the Nagorno-Karabakh problem.

A 2009 protocol aiming to boost ties between Ankara and Yerevan, including the opening of the border between the two countries, was halted upon a move by Azerbaijan, which has repeatedly said such a move must not happen until there is an agreement on the status of Nagorno-Karabakh.

The Armenian Constitutional Court, meanwhile, has declared that the protocol was not compatible with the country’s Constitution. Turkey has recently been working on some “creative ideas” to develop relations with Armenia, which Ankara considers as part of efforts to maintain peace and stability in the region. One of those “creative ideas” is to reopen the long-closed railway link between Turkey and Armenia, contingent upon parallel progress in Nagorno-Karabakh talks.
Foreign Minister Davutoğlu first voiced Turkey’s willingness to develop ties with Armenia during a recent visit to Switzerland, which hosted the signing ceremony of the protocol in 2009.

“We are now looking to develop it and advance with creative ideas and new ways of thinking. We will increase our works in the coming period. When relations between Turkey and Armenia are normalized, most of the issues between Azerbaijan and Armenia will also be within the framework of a solution,” he said during his visit to Bern in October, when he also sought the support of Switzerland for steps in developing ties with Armenia.

The issue was on the agenda of Turkish leaders during recent visits to Washington and Moscow. The presidential-level talks between Armenia and Azerbaijan resumed in late October with a meeting under the auspices of the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs after a long interval. Ankara intends to assess Armenia’s approach to the recent round of talks during the visit of Minister Davutoğlu to Yerevan.