Armenia Turkey to Continue Secret Talks

YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–Senior Armenian and Turkish diplomats are planning to hold more confidential talks to prepare for yet another meeting of the foreign ministers of the two neighboring countries–sources in Yerevan and Ankara said on Monday.

The Armenian foreign ministry effectively confirmed a Turkish newspaper report that the upcoming "secret week-long talks" will take place in a third country amid improved prospects for normalizing Turkish-Armenian relations.

The government-linked "Turkish Daily News" reported that the "preparatory gathering" will precede a meeting between Foreign Ministers Ismail Cem and Vartan Oskanian–which is scheduled to be held in Istanbul on June 25.

The two men have already met twice this year–most recently in Iceland’s capital Reykjavik on May 14. Oskanian described the talks as "very constructive and useful."

The Armenian foreign ministry spokeswoman–Dziunik Aghajanian–told RFE/RL that a preparatory meeting Turkish and Armenian diplomats is "very likely." She said they will work out the agenda and other details of the upcoming Cem-Oskanian encounter.

The Turkish paper said the Armenian side will be represented by Karen Mirzoyan–head of the foreign ministry’s Middle East department. It said Mirzoyan had paid a confidential visit to Ankara shortly before the Reykjavik negotiations.

The recent direct diplomatic contacts seem to have eased long-running tensions between Ankara and Yerevan–raising the prospect of an eventual normalization of bilateral ties. Successive Turkish government have until now linked it to a resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict that would restore Azerbaijan’s control of the disputed territory.

According to Aghajanian–Armenian calls for establishing for diplomatic relations and opening the Turkish-Armenian border without preconditions are now finding greater understanding in Turkey.

"There is now a real opportunity to have Armenia’s argumen’s that the two neighboring states should normalize their relations high on the agenda of the talks," she said.

"The Turkish Daily News" commented on Monday that Turkish observers now see a "golden opportunity for the two states to break the historical barriers" created by worldwide geopolitical changes since the September 11 terrorist attacks on the United States.

"Foreign policy analysts comment that Ankara and Yerevan share similar views as they both support effective fight against international terrorist networks," it wrote. "Armenia permitted the use of its airspace for US jets leaving [the US military base in the Turkish city of] Incirlik for Afghanistan upon the request of President George W. Bush."

The paper had claimed before the Reykjavik meeting that "important steps are expected to be for the opening of the closed border between Turkey and Armenia."

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