Erdogan Tells Turks to ‘Forget About’ Armenian Border Opening

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ANKARA (RFE/RL)–Turkey will not normalize relations with Armenia before the resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan reiterated over the weekend, again dismissing recent reports to the contrary.

“Forget about the opening of the border with Armenia before the settlement of the Karabakh problem,” Haberturk.com quoted Erdogan as saying during an unofficial visit to Germany.

Erdogan made similar statements on three separate occasions earlier this month, pouring cold war on expectations of a breakthrough in Turkish-Armenian relations. Recent media reports, most of them citing unnamed Turkish government sources, said that the two neighboring states could sign an agreement on the gradual establishment of diplomatic relations and reopening of their border as early as this month.

The reports sparked an uproar in Azerbaijan. Its government and leading politicians have warned Ankara that an unconditional deal with Yerevan would constitute a betrayal of its closest Turkic ally.

Armenian leaders insist that the Turks effectively dropped their long-standing linkage between Turkish-Armenian reconciliation and Karabakh when they embarked on a dialogue with Armenia last year. Despite Erdogan’s tough talk, President Serzh Sarkisian and Foreign Minister Eduard Nalbandian have sounded cautiously optimistic about the success of that dialogue.

Sarkisian’s office on Monday declined to comment on the Turkish premier’s latest statement. The Armenian Foreign Ministry also had no comment.

Meanwhile, a senior U.S. official was due in Ankara on Monday to discuss with Turkish leaders ways of kick-starting the fence-mending talks with Armenia strongly backed by Washington. The issue was on the agenda of Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Matthew Bryza’s brief visit to Yerevan late last week.

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