Turkey Ties Not a ‘Favor’ to Armenia, Foreign Ministry Says

ISTANBUL (Combined Sources)–The normalization of relations between Armenia and Turkey would be “in the interests of both countries” and should not be misrepresented as a “favor to be given to Armenia,” The Armenian Foreign Ministry said Tuesday after a slew of media reports from Turkey misrepresented Monday night’s meeting between the Armenian Foreign Minister and his Turkish counterpart as a last ditch plea for Turkey to open their common border.

Nalbandian arrived in Istanbul on Monday to attend a meeting of foreign ministers of Black Sea Economic Cooperation member states. Armenia recently assumed the structure’s rotating chairmanship. He met with his Turkish counterpart Ali Babacan later in the evening for talks that reportedly lasted more than two hours and were held behind closed doors.

"The full-scale settlement of Armenian-Turkish relations is in the interests of the two countries and the two peoples,” read a statement from the foreign ministry. “Dialogue between Armenia and Turkey is aimed particularly at establishing diplomatic relations and at opening borders. This must not be considered as a favor to be given to Armenia because this is of no less interest to Turkey.”

Before meeting with Babacan, Nalbandian held a press conference during which he spoke in a similar vein, explaining that the establishment of diplomatic relations and opening of the common border between Armenia and Turkey meets the two nations’ interests and can serve as a means for establishing security in the region.

The sides were reported to have discussed bilateral relations, the recent Turkish initiative of establishing a so-called cooperation and security platform in the Caucasus as well as other issues concerning the broader region. Following the meeting, Nalbandian announced that President Serzh Sarkisian would pay a visit to Turkey next fall for the World Cup qualifier between the national soccer teams of Armenia and Turkey.

During a press conference following the talks, the two diplomats described their meeting as “useful and constructive,” saying that “an agreement was reached to continue joint efforts aimed at normalizing bilateral relations,” according to Foreign Ministry Spokesman Tigran Balyan.

But Balyan refuted Turkish media reports claiming that Nalbandian had “displayed optimism” toward Turkey’s proposal to establish a commission of historians to examine the events of 1915.

The report, published by Hurriyet Daily News on Tuesday said: “Turkey wants the establishment of a commission of experts to investigate the events of 1915 and seeks a breakthrough on the Nagorno-Karabagh issue before taking the decision to open borders or establishing diplomatic relations. Although both sides seem to disagree on how to proceed toward normal relations, the Armenian foreign minister displayed optimism.”

“Minister Nalbandian emphasized that Armenia’s position on the Genocide issue is unchangeable,” Balayansaid, commenting on the matter. “Today, some Turkish media circulated reports that Armenia changed its stand on the Armenian Genocide issue and agreed to form a joint commission of historians to study the 1915 events.”

Listen to audio of Nalbandian’s remarks to the BSEC in Istanbul.

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