BSEC Meeting Wasn’t Rescheduled, Says Foreign Ministry

ANKARA (Combined Sources)–Armenia’s Foreign Ministry denied on Friday Turkish media reports asserting that official Yerevan had rescheduled an upcoming meeting of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation Organization to accommodate Turkey.

The Turkish Today’s Zaman reported Wednesday that Armenia had rescheduled the BSEC foreign ministerial meeting, apparently as a goodwill gesture to ensure Turkish Foreign Minister Ali Babacan would be among the participants, diplomatic sources have revealed.

According to Zaman, the Armenian authorities moved the date of the meeting from the previously announced April 29 to April 16.

Armenia’s Foreign Ministry Spokesman Tigran Balayan refuted those claims during a press conference on Friday, saying the meeting’s date had initially been scheduled for April 16 and was not changed to accommodate Turkey.

Babacan accepted the invitation to visit Yerevan in April for the BSEC meeting on February 18.

The meeting, scheduled for April 16-17, will come days before the official day dedicated to the 94th anniversary of the Armenian genocide.

Before the foreign ministerial gathering, BSEC countries are due to hold ministerial-level working meetings also in Yerevan. The energy ministers of BSEC countries will meet on March 13, while the transportation and agriculture ministers will gather on March 27 and April 10, respectively.

Cabinet ministers may also visit Yerevan before Babacan. Diplomatic sources do not rule out the prospect of ministerial visits to Armenia, underlining the importance Turkey attaches to the BSEC functioning effectively. Turkey has traditionally favored senior-level attendance at BSEC meetings, and sources say Ankara is unlikely to scale down its role in BSEC because of problems with Armenia.

Armenian Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian traveled to Istanbul to attend the previous BSEC meeting held there. Nalbandian said then that his country wanted to invite Babacan to the next BSEC meeting in Yerevan. It is not clear whether a formal invitation for Babacan has yet arrived.

Armenia assumed the chairmanship of the BSEC last November and has focusing on streamlining several issues, primarily dealing with energy cooperation between the BSEC member countries. The six month rotating chairmanship is set to end in April.

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