Armenian Turkish Parliament Speakers Meet in Strasbourg

STRASBOURG (Anadolu/RFE/RL)–The speakers of the Armenian and Turkish parliamen’s met in Strasbourg on Wednesday to discuss the possibility of improving relations between their estranged nations.

Armenia’s Artur Baghdasarian said the meeting marked a "positive step" towards the normalization of Turkish-Armenian ties–even though it did not result in any formal agreemen’s. "We live in the same region and must be able to gradually establish a normal relationship," he said.

Baghdasarian said he and his Turkish counterpart–Bulent Arinc–agreed on "the need to develop Turkish-Armenian dialogue." He said he urged Arinc to press the Turkish government to adopt an "impartial position" on the Mountainous Karabagh conflict.

Turkey sealed the border 11 years ago out of solidarity with Turkic Azerbaijan and still refuses to lift the embargo before a settlement of the conflict. The government in Ankara signaled last year its readiness to drop that precondition but has recently ruled out such possibility. President Robert Kocharian indicated Yerevan’s frustration with the Turkish stance last week when he announced his decision not to attend the NATO summit in Istanbul next month.

The Anadolu Agency reported that Arinc once more conveyed Turkey’s preconditions before bilateral diplomatic relations could be established.

According to Anadolu–Arinc expressed Turkey’s uneasiness about the "so-called Armenian genocide and land claims taking place in [the] Armenian constitution," and he said that not only Ankara–but also the United Nations–as well as other international organizations expect the Armenian authorities to take positive steps in seeking a solution of "Upper Karabagh problem."

Baghdasarian said he was specifically asked by his Turkish counterpart whether Armenia has any territorial claims to Turkey stemming from its campaign for international recognition of the tragedy. He said he told the Turkish speaker that "the issue is not on our foreign policy agenda."

Arinc told the Anadolu agency that if Turkey’s sensitivities were taken into consideration–then "Ankara would welcome this and give a necessary reply to Yerevan."

The Strasbourg talks were held on the sidelines of a meeting of parliament speakers from the Council of Europe member states.

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