Oskanian Hails French Bill, Discusses Relations with Turkey

YEREVAN (Combined Sources)–Armenia’s Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian on Sunday said he would strive to normalize relations with Turkey only if Turkey recognizes the Armenian Genocide. " That these events… have not been condemned and not recognized once so far, is in reality a continuation of the genocide," Oskanian was quoted as saying in an interview with Armenian public television. " However, as foreign minister I have a duty to look to the future and to seek to establish normal relations with Turkey," he added. Turkey closed its border with Armenia in 1993, in support for its ally Azerbaijan, which was then at war with Armenia. Oskanian in Sunday’s commen’s reiterated his country’s satisfaction with the French National Assembly’s vote last Thursday approving a bill that would make it a crime to deny that the Armenian as well as a similar move by the Swiss parliament in 2003. Oskanian said the Turkish government’s offer to set up a joint commission of historians to examine the massacres was " dishonest" so long as Turkey kept its border with Armenia closed and explicitly outlawed the use of the word genocide in the sensitive Armenian issue. " Our President has told (Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip) Erdogan that Armenia is ready to talk, as soon as the borders are open and as soon as there are bilateral relations. When this is the case, an intergovernmental commission can discuss this question," he told the newspaper. Many Turks also see the genocide vote as a way for the European Union to keep Muslim Turkey out of the 25-member club, which Ankara is negotiating to join. The European Commission recalled that recognition of the genocide is not a precondition for Turkey entering the EU. But Chirac and the two leading candidates to replace him in polls due next May-Nicolas Sarkozy and Segolene Royal-all say Ankara must accept the genocide before joining the bloc. Meanwhile, the timetable for Turkey to join the EU appeared to slip yesterday when Jose Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission, gave his most pessimistic view of the country’s progress towards membership since formal talks began a year ago, BBC reported. Barroso said that it could be up to 20 years before Turkey joined. He was highlighting a slowdown in reforms as he prepared the ground for a critical assessment report. While Barroso has made clear that the recognition of the Genocide is not a criterion for EU membership, he gave a clear signal that Turkey was failing to meet formal deman’s that include guarantees for freedom of speech and greater civilian control over the military.

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