Turkish, Armenian Foreign Ministers ‘Optimistic’ on Regional Relations

ANKARA (Combined Sources)–Armenia is optimistic about the future of Armenia-Turkey relations, Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian said on Thursday, as the Turkish foreign minister hailed what has been coined as a new era of dialogue in a region fraught with historical conflicts.

In an interview with Turkey’s Anatolia news agency in the Albanian capital of Tirana, Nalbandyan said efforts were underway to open the border between Turkey and Armenia and to establish diplomatic relations between the two countries. The Armenian foreign minister was in Tirana attending the foreign ministers meeting of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation (BSEC).

But Nalbandyan said he was hopeful for the future of Turkish-Armenian relations.

He said Turkish, Armenian and Azerbaijani officials, who held talks in New York last moth on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, might come together again for a new round of talks. He added that the "Caucasus Stability and Cooperation Platform," proposed by Turkey amid the Russian Georgian conflict in August, is on the agenda of the talks between the countries.

Turkish Foreign Minister Ali Babacan, who was also in Tirana on Thursday, described the new international processes his country is seeking to institute as a “remarkable effort for the stability of the region.”

Babacan also said Turkey’s final goal was the normalization of its relations with Armenia, as well as the relations between Azerbaijan and Armenia.

The border between Armenia and Turkey has been closed since 1993, when Turkey joined Azerbaijan in imposing an illegal embargo on Armenia for supporting Nagorno-Karabakh’s independence movement from Azerbaijan, a close Turkish ally. Ankara has maintained the blockade will remain as long as Armenia’supports the self determination of the people of Nagorno-Karabakh and continues to seek international recognition of the Armenian Genocide.

Relations between Armenia and Turkey, virtually non-existent, have begun experiencing what is being described by officials in Turkey, the United States, and Russia as a “warming,” after a landmark visit to Armenia by Turkish President Abdullah Gul in September.

According to President Gul, Turkey wants to see a solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, an issue, which Turkey contends stands between Armenian-Azeri relations.

"We want to see a solution to the problems between Armenia and Azerbaijan. We sincerely want this, and we are ready to contribute to bringing about a solution,” Gul said during an interview to United Press International earlier this week, adding that during talks with Sarkisian, he said that “problems in the Caucasus don’t just affect the two countries directly involved, but everyone in the Caucasus.”

He said Turkey is playing a major role in geopolitics, working alongside the United States to create an environment that will end the Karabakh conflict, which he described as a territorial dispute between Armenia and Azerbaijan rather than the indigenous population of Nagorno-Karabakh and Azerbaijan.

“I should say that after my visit there things have progressed quite significantly. Important work has been done. After visiting Armenia I then went on to Azerbaijan a couple days later and had important contacts there with my ; counterpart, and after that the three foreign ministers actually recently met in New York, so there’s significant progress being made," Gul said.

"There are important energy pipelines between Azerbaijan and Turkey. Pipelines that transfer oil but also pipelines that transport gas, and now we are building a very important railway linking us. In all of the ceremonies I’ve always made it clear, gave the message, if you will, in my addresses that once the problems between us are solved, these projects are open to Armenia as well," the Turkish President said.

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