Oskanian Addresses Turkish Armenian Relations

YEREVAN (Armenpress)–Armenian-Turkish relations were discussed during president Robert Kocharian’s recent visits to the US and France–said foreign minister Vartan Oskanian in a Tuesday news conference.

They were one of the key issues discussed during the Kocharian-Clinton–Kocharian-Al Gore and Kocharian-Chirac meetings. The US has pledged its support in regards to this issue–including persuading Turkey to open borders with Armenia–said Oskanian.

However–the main obstacle today remains Turkey’s position which ties the improvement of Armenian-Turkish relations to the resolution of the Karabakh conflict–said Oskanian.

Oskanian also expressed bewilderment over the recent expulsion of an Armenian delegation from the town of Gumri that had been invited to a conference in Turkey’s Kars. The official explanation given by Turkey’s foreign ministry deputy spokesman tied the normalization of bilateral relations to the unresolved Karabakh conflict and Armenia’s claims for the recognition of the 1915 Genocide–said Oskanian.

This was evaluated by Armenian foreign ministry as a sharp shift in Turkey’s policy adopted quite recently.

Fortunately–noted Oskanian–this mistake was immediately corrected by Turkey’s leadership. He cited Turkey’s prime minister who had recently twice noted that the only obstacle in the way of normalization of Armenian-Turkish relations was the unresolved Karabakh conflict.

"We do not have a moral right to refuse the issue of Genocide acknowledgment. It is not a decision of the Armenian authorities–it is the decision of all Armenia’s," Oskanian said.

Oskanian also stated that the steps aimed towards the recognition of the Armenian Genocide–including those taken in Turkey–are not directed to root hostility between the two nations but to eliminate that hostility and make normalization of relations possible.

Turning to the economic sphere–unlike previous meetings Armenian officials have held with international leaders–this time the primary focus was put on Armenia’s economic development and only then on the Karabakh conflict settlement.

Oskanian also stressed that issues related to corruption struggle in Armenia and facilitating the tax burden had been discussed with key officials of the World Bank and IMF. Oskanian noted that the economic growth pace over the recent 7-8 years was not sufficient to radically improve the situation. "I think there are all reasons now to believe that the authorities will be able to solve major problems in the year of 2001," said Oskanian.

Referring to the principle of complimentarity pursued in foreign policy–Oskanian said it proved to be successful. He–in particular–stressed that Armenia’s contacts with Russia were not restricted to the military only and that the relations with the US were not restricted to economic ones only.

Referring to the reportedly mass emigration of Armenia’s Oskanian said it was somewhat exaggerated. "However we should not be satisfied with this and should take resolute steps to prevent it by securing sustainable economic growth," he added.

Oskanian also said that president Kocharian and his Azeri counterpart Heydar Aliyev are to meet in August in the Crimea during an extraordinary CIS summit. They are also expected to have another meeting in September in New York at the sidelines of the UN 2000 general assembly session.

The OSCE Minsk group co-chairmen’said during their recent visit to the region they hoped that these two direct meetings would give a new impetus to new ideas regarding the Karabakh conflict settlement and on their basis they would continue their mission–Oskanian said.

He swept off speculations that the conflict was entering a "conservation" phase with maintaining of the cease-fire regime only. "Outwardly there may be such an impression–but inwardly the stress is put on the conflict’s quickest possible resolution," he said.

"The dragging or conservation of the conflict’s settlement is not beneficial either for Armenia–Azerbaijan or Karabakh," he said.


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