Turkish PM doubts deal with Armenia

12th October 2009, Comments 0 comments

Recep Tayyip Erdogan expressed doubt Sunday on agreements signed with Armenia to end decades of hostility.

Ankara -- Turkey's Prime Minister expressed doubt Sunday on deals signed with Armenia to end decades of hostility, seeming to pose conditions on the opening of their common border.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan's comments came less than a day after top US and European officials, including US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, used diplomacy to help Armenia and Turkey overcome differences.

The two countries eventually signed historic pacts to normalise ties and open the border at a ceremony in Zurich Saturday, but not before a three-hour delay and a decision to cancel speeches because of a dispute over them.

At a meeting of officials from his party on Sunday, Erdogan raised concerns over the Nagorny-Karabakh region in Azerbaijan, one of the obstacles toward agreement between Turkey and Armenia.

"We want all the borders to be opened at the same time... but as long as Armenia has not withdrawn from Azerbaijani territory that it is occupying, Turkey cannot have a positive attitude on this subject," Erdogan said.

Armenia rejected any link between Nagorny-Karabakh, an Armenian region which broke away from Turkish-backed Azerbaijan after a war, and its reconciliation efforts with Turkey.

Turkey closed its border with Armenia in 1993 to support Azerbaijan.

Erdogan said he would submit the signed pacts to normalise relations and open the shared border with Armenia to his country's parliament, but warned of potential problems.

"We are going to transmit the protocols signed yesterday by our foreign minister to parliament, but our deputies, in order to ratify them, are undoubtedly going to ask about the Armenian-Azerbaijani question," he said.

"If Azerbaijan and Armenia begin to look for a resolution to their problems, public opinion here will have a greater appreciation of the normalisation of Turkey-Armenia relations. And that will facilitate the ratification of the protocols by parliament."

The deals, which must be approved by both countries' parliaments, are aimed at ending decades of hostility over the World War I era mass killings of Armenians under Ottoman rule.

Turkey refused to establish diplomatic links with Armenia over Yerevan's efforts to recognise the massacres as genocide, a label Turkey strongly rejects.

An Armenian diplomat said Sunday the delay in signing the deals the previous day was caused by Ankara's intention to discuss genocide.

But Nagorny-Karabakh posed problems as well.

The complex diplomacy linked to it was evident on Sunday, when Azerbaijan criticised Turkey for agreeing to normalise ties with Armenia.

It also warned that the opening of the Armenian-Turkish border could cause instability in the South Caucasus.

The agreement by the two countries after over a year of Swiss-mediated talks faces opposition from critics at home, even though both the Turkish and Armenian governments can command parliamentary majorities.

Western countries pushed for reconciliation between them.

Clinton joined EU foreign affairs chief Javier Solana, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner at Saturday's ceremony in a public show of support.

AFP / Expatica

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