Blockade Not to be Lifted, Says Turkish Economy Minister

IGDIR, Turkey (Combined Sources)–Turkey will not lift its decade long blockade of Armenia unless Yerevan resolves it "problems" with Ankara and its regional ally, Azerbaijan, A Turkish Government Minister said on Tuesday.
Economy Minister Mehmet Simsek commen’s Tuesday came during a meeting on regional development held in the Turkish province of Igdir (historic Ararat), which straddles the border with Armenia.
Simsek remarked that Turkey, with its large economy, does not need economic ties with Armenia. It is Armenia that must take the necessary steps to normalize its relations with Turkey, he added.
"We don’t need them, they need us," Simsek said. "Turkey wants good economic ties with its neighbors. If they see this fact and take a step toward us, we will take a step toward them."
Simsek, whose country continues to maintain preconditions for normalizing relations with its neighbor, placed the burden for that decision on Armenia, claiming that Turkey has no commercial or political dialogue with the Armenia’s due to the so called "problems" caused by them.
"The opening of the border is unfortunately not possible for the time being without Armenia resolving its problems with Azerbaijan and changing its stance toward Turkey," he stated.
Simsek attended the meeting with the Chairman of the Turkish Confederation of Businessmen and Industrialists Riza Nur Meral and a delegation of 200 investors and businessmen.
Pointing to the level of stagnation in Igdir and Kars, He said that trade with neighboring countries is vital for the economy of Turkey’s border provinces. For this reason, the central government will continue to channel funds into regional development projects aimed at revitalizing the agricultural and livestock sectors of the provinces’ economies.
He also mentioned plans to turn Mount Ararat, the symbol of Armenian nationhood around the world, into a tourist attraction. Mount Ararat has been under Turkish occupation since 1921, when Soviet Russia’signed it away to Mustafa Kemal as a sign of "Friendship and brotherhood."
Turkey closed its border with Armenia in 1993, following a similar move by its junior ally Azerbaijan after it started an all out war with the Armenia’s of Nagorno-Karabakh. Turkey maintains that in order to discuss the normalization of relations between the two countries, Armenia must end its campaign for international recognition of the Genocide, renounce territorial claims to the historic Armenian provinces under Turkish occupation, and resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict in the framework of Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity.
Talk of the possibility for re-establishing ties between the two countries reemerged this year following remarks by Turkish President Abdullah G?l, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and Turkish Foreign Minister Ali Babacan that a new era of regional peace and stability had dawned. The remarks, which are largely deceptive in nature, come every year as the internationally recognized anniversary of the start of the Genocide (April 24) nears.
In a written letter sent shortly after Armenia’s presidential election, G?l congratulated his Armenian counterpart Serzh Sarkisian on his election as president of Armenia and said that he hoped his election would create the necessary environment for the normalization of relations between the two countries.
Despite the fact that Armenia continues to maintain its willingness to for normal relations without preconditions, there has been no visible progress on the side of Turkey.


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