Turkey Encouraging Domestic Protests Against Open Borders, Says Hovannesian

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YEREVAN–The Turkish government is encouraging domestic demonstrations against the opening of its border with Armenia to influence Western opinion in favor of preconditions Ankara and Baku have placed on Yerevan, a leader of the Armenian Revolution Federation said Friday, Yerkir reported.

According to the Azeri Press Agency, residents from the border village of Alijan in Turkey held demonstrations on Friday against the prospect of open-borders with Armenia. One protester was quoted by the APA as saying “we are one nation, two states” and “Armenians must release all the territories under their occupation and they must drop their claims on the so-called Armenian genocide.”

The legitimacy of these protests should be questioned, said Vahan Hovannesian, the head of the ARF’s parliamentary faction, who spoke to the issue during a session of the Armenian National Assembly on Friday.

Turkey will leverage these demonstrations “to try and present its preconditions on Armenia as the only key to establishing normal relations between Turkey and Armenia,” Hovannesian said, noting that the demonstrations are being staged staged in the western provinces of Armenia, under Turkish occupation since 1921.

The Azeri Trend news agency, meanwhile reported that, as of Friday, over 13,000 signatures have been gathered by Turks and Azeris as part of a campaign against the opening of the Turkish-Armenian border.

Hovannesian pointed to the recent reports, saying that because Azerbaijan had put forth its own preconditions for the opening of the Turkish-Armenian border, Armenia must clarify what role Baku has been playing in Yerevan’s talks with Ankara.

Azerbaijan’s preconditions demand Armenia cede control of the liberated districts surrounding the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic and allow for the creation of a Turkish-Azeri land corridor through the southern part of the strategic region of Kashatagh (Lachin), linking Armenia and Karabakh.

The Turkish government appeared ready to drop that linkage when it embarked on the dialogue with the Sarkisian administration last year. But Ankara is again linking the normalization of its relations with Yerevan with a resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict acceptable to Azerbaijan. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said twice over the past week that his country cannot establish diplomatic relations and reopen its border with Armenia as long as the Karabakh conflict remains unresolved.

These remarks, including like statements by Turkish President Abdullah Gul on Wednesday, came after Azerbaijan threatened it would take “retaliatory measures” and cut off natural gas supplies to Turkey if the borders were opened before a resolution to the Karabakh conflict acceptable to Baku was reached.

“Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev doesn’t understand what is in his country’s national interests,” Hovannesian said, commenting on Baku’s attempts to manipulate the negotiation process between Armenia and Turkey. “It is in Azerbaijan’s interests to see this issue resolved in a cool and even handed manner without making demands on any of the parties involved in the talks.”

Hovannesian said the ARF would issue a detailed report before the end of the month analyzing the political and economic consequences that would follow the normalization of Turkish-Armenian relations

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