No Obstacles to Normal Relations, Nalbandian Says

ANKARA (ArmRadio)–In an interview with the Turkish BBC service on Tuesday, Armenia’s Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian said he sees no obstacles to the establishment of normal relations between Armenia and Turkey.

“I don’t think there is a real obstacle to the normalization of the relations,” Nalbandian said. “We are first of all waiting for the normalization of relations, the establishment of diplomatic ties and the opening of the border.”

Nalbandian also said that Armenia is ready to establish an intergovernmental commission to “discuss all issues” after full diplomatic relations are established.

“Reconciliation between Armenia and Turkey will not make everyone happy,” he said. “The leaders of the two countries should assume the responsibility and make decisions for the benefit of the two peoples and the region.”

But the opinion of the Diaspora cannot be ignored in the process, he stressed.

During the interview, Nalbandian discussed Armenia’s positions on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, Armenia’s relations with Azerbaijan, and Russian and Turkish involvement in the South Caucasus.

Commenting on recent attempts to link the normalization of ties to a resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, Nalbandian reiterated that Armenia does not see the two connected, as the Karabakh conflict is being mediated within the format of the OSCE Minsk Group.

“We expect that negotiations on the Karabakh conflict will restart. However, I think that there is no connection between those and the Armenia-Turkey dialogue,” Nalbandian said. “The process of normalization of our relations with Turkey has started and I’m very optimistic about it.”

He said the OSCE Minsk Group is currently working to reach a compromise solution to the Karabakh conflict, adding that the format, co-chaired by the US, Russia and France, has “the support of the international community and the Armenian side does not seek an alternative to it.”

Speaking on Russia’ role in the Karabakh peace process, Nalbandian noted that Russia has always played a constructive role as one of the three co-chairs mediating for a resolution to the conflict. “The Russian Federation has always been very constructive in the Karabakh talks,” he said. “One should not forget that in 1994 the cease-fire was signed through the mediation of Russia.”

Unfortunately Azeri society is not yet ready to accept a peaceful resolution to the conflict, Nalbandian noted, citing public opinion polls in Azerbaijan that show 30% of its population supporting a military solution to the conflict. “This is very dangerous. You will not find even 1% of the Armenian population supporting a military solution to the conflict. This is the result of militaristic propaganda.”

According to Nalbandian, the two sides were close to agreeing on a peaceful resolution in 2001 due but Azerbaijan turned down the proposal advanced by French Presiden Jacque Chirac. “President Heydar Aliyev declared the Azeri society is not ready for that [peace].”

The conflict in South Ossetia, however, will have a “cold shower affect” on the Azeri leadership, he said, explaining that the conflict’s negative consequences will replace Baku’s war rhetoric with a more “political and peaceful approach to the Karabakh conflict settlement.”

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