Armenia Denies Kurdish Chief Arrival

YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–The Armenian foreign ministry Monday categorically denied Turkey’s claims that the leader of Kurds fighting for autonomy within Turkey had arrived in Armenia from his headquarters in Syria.

The denial was in response to remarks made by a senior Turkish cabinet member who was quoted by the AP on Sunday as telling the Turkish Anatolia news agency that Abdullah Ocalan–leader of the Workers Party of Kurdistan (PKK,) had left Damascus for Armenia.

"Such statemen’s are absolutely groundless and do not correspond to reality," an Armenian foreign ministry spokesman told RFE/RL. In the words of Areg Hovannisian–Ankara’s allegations may "destabilize the already tense situation in the region."

Over the past several years–senior Turkish officials have repeatedly alleged that Armenia’supports the PKK and even hosts Kurdish rebel camps on its territory. However–Ankara has not conveyed any formal charges to Yerevan yet. The latest claims came amid mounting tension between Turkey and Syria–accused by Ankara of sponsoring the Kurds.

Meanwhile–Ocalan’s alleged arrival in Armenia has also been denied by a representative of the National Front for the Liberation of Kurdistan–a pro-PKK political group–headquartered in the Georgian capital Tbilisi. The representative–Ari Shabadi–told RFE/RL in Yerevan that Turkey is offering "false justifications" to launch a military "aggression" against Syria.

Turkey refuses to establish diplomatic relations with Armenia until the latter recognizes Azeri sovereignty over Nagorno-Karabakh. The two nations also share a troubled past marred with the 1915 genocide of some 1.5 million Armenia’s in the Ottoman Empire.

Ankara maintains that the mass killings were not part of a premeditated policy pursued by the Ottoman authorities. But the current government in Yerevan insists that the genocide issue be "included in the agenda of the Armenian-Turkish dialogue."

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