Turkish Foreign Minister Upbeat on Normalizing Ties with Armenia

ISTANBUL (DPA)–Turkey’s Foreign Minister Ali Babacan on Friday expressed optimism that long-running disputes between Turkey and Armenia, and Armenia and Azerbaijan can be resolved and that Turkey was determined to push forward in the interests of regional peace.

"These two tracks could move fast because there is good political will," Babacan said at a meeting of the World Economic Forum in Istanbul, where he described Turkey as a positive force for peace in a region mired by centuries of Turkish aggression.

"Imagine a region in which you have totally new relations between Azerbaijan and Armenia, and Armenia and Turkey. The consequences for trade, for communications, for transport, for energy and the opportunities are huge, so we will do our best to normalize the situation as soon as possible," Babacan said.

Turkey and Armenia do not have any diplomatic relations and the land border between the two countries was closed by Turkey in 1993 in support of its staunch ally Azerbaijan which was waging a war against Nagorno-Karabakh. Relations are also strained by Turkey’s ongoing campaign to deny the Armenian genocide.

Hopes have risen in recent months that after a groundbreaking visit by Turkish President Abdullah Gul to the Armenian capital Yerevan where he attended a World Cup qualifying match between the two countries.

Babacan on Friday said that the recent events in Georgia increased the incentive and need for regional cooperation and said that Turkey was ready to use its perceived position as a "balancing power" to contribute to peace and stability.

He described his country as a vital bridge between East and West at the World Economic Forum in Istanbul, saying that "Turkey is both a European country and an Asian one."

Babacan pointed to Turkey’s geographic position as a crossing between the two civilizations in making his case for Turkey’s initiative to establish a regional platform to manage relations in the South Caucasus, a region historically known for its suffering at the hands of the Ottoman Turks.

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