Armenia, Turkey Sign Energy Deal

YEREVAN (Combined Sources)–Armenia has signed a deal to supply electricity to Turkey from the beginning of 2009, Armenian Energy Minister Armen Movsisian said Wednesday.

Movsisian told reporters that the deal will see electricity from Armenian thermal power plants supplied to eastern Turkey.

"An agreement on this was reached during the recent visit of the Turkish President Abdullah Gul," he said."Turkey is a new market for Armenia, as Armenia last supplied electricity to this country during the Soviet period."

Discussions to begin selling energy to Turkey, which Armenia currently has no diplomatic ties with, took place during Turkish President Abdullah Gul’s visit to Yerevan over the weekend to watch a soccer match between the two countries’ national teams.

The deal was signed between Armenia’s state-owned High Voltage Electricity Network company and a privately owned Turkish firm called UNIT, Movsisian said.

He said the infrastructure was in place on the Armenian side to deliver the electricity but that repairs to transmission lines and the installation of a new transformer in Turkey would take four to five months.

He said Armenia would initially supply 1.5 billion kilowatts per hour of electricity to Turkey and that the amount would eventually increase to 3.5 billion kilowatts per hour.

Turkey’s Foreign Minister, Ali Babacan said Wednesday that if Turkey and Armenia forge diplomatic ties and are seen to have good relations, other countries could well stop passing resolutions condemning Ottoman Turks for committing genocide against their Armenian population in 1915-1923.

Foreign Minister Ali Babacan said in a television interview that after the Turkish president’s breakthrough visit to Armenia on Saturday, the two countries had stepped up efforts to resolve their differences.

Historians estimate that up to 1.5 million Armenia’s were massacred in 1915-28 in Ottoman Turkey in the first genocide of the 20th Century. About 20 parliamen’s have passed resolutions reiterating this fact. Turkey denies any genocide, saying the death toll has been inflated and the dead were victims of civil war and unrest.

Turkey lobbies vigorously against any legislature that handles a bill that recognizes the Genocide. Last year, President George W. Bush narrowly prevented the passage of a nonbinding resolution to that effect in the U.S. Congress. He warned lawmakers that it would imperil Turkey’s logistic support for U.S. military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Turkey closed its border with Armenia in 1993 in protest over its support for Nagorno Karabakh’s struggle for independence from Azerbaijan, a Turkish ally. In addition, Mount Ararat and much of eastern Turkey is western Armenia.

"If we manage to make rapid progress in our initiative to solve the problems," Babacan told the local channel NTV, "then there will be no need for third country parliamen’s to discuss these issues. We can tell them: ‘Mind your own business. Armenia and Turkey are getting along well.’"

He declined to say which problem the two governmen’s would tackle first, saying all the issues must be laid on the table.

Armenia "has a solution-focused position," Babacan said. "There is a political will on both sides for a solution."

He added he might take part in a tripartite meeting with the Azerbaijani and Armenian foreign ministers on the sidelines of the upcoming U.N. General Assembly in New York.

Turkey’s closure of its border with landlocked Armenia is known to have hurt the smaller country’s economy.

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