Turkey Will Not Back Off from Preconditions, Say Hovanessian

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ARF Parliamentary Faction leader Vahan Hovannesian

YEREVAN (Yerkir)–Referring to statements made Wednesday by Turkey’s Army Chief of Staff calling for the simultaneous resolution of the Karabakh conflict and the Armenia-Turkey border opening, the head of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation Parliamentary bloc Vahan Hovanessian said that Turkey was not going to back away from setting pre-conditions in the negotiations process.

In his remarks to reporters on Wednesday, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ilker Basbub said, “Armenia’s borders should be opened simultaneously with the withdrawal of Armenian forces from occupied Azeri territories” Basbub’s comments are the first instance in which the powerful Turkish Military has revealed its views on the issue of normalizing relations with Armenia.

Hovanessian pointed out to his fellow legislatures that Basbug was speaking on behalf of Army adding that, for the first time, the opinion of that structure was being heard.

“We all know what significance the army has in Turkey and we also know who leads the political landscape there,” said Hovanessian, adding that the top army head also sided with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who for weeks has been pre-conditioning the normalization of relations with Armenia on a resolution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

Responding to questions from the press on the possibility of opening the borders with Armenia, Basbug recalled Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s statements that the opening of the borders with Armenia will be done simultaneously with the withdrawal of Armenian force from “occupied Azerbaijani territory.”

“The prime minister has clearly said the border opening will take place at the time when Armenian troops are withdrawn,” Basbug told a news conference, according to Turkish media. “We completely agree with this.”

“I believe that the Turks, have once again, shown that our rosy optimism that there are no preconditions are baseless,” said Hovanessian, adding that the armed-forces and the prime minister in Turkey have more weight that the president or the foreign minister, who have also repeatedly echoed the same position in recent weeks.

The ARF leader went on to cite other aspects of Basbug’s statements, in which the General says Armenia does not recognize the Kars Treaty and objects to the inclusion of Genocide recognition within Armenia’s Constitution.

A secret treaty signed between Turkey and the Soviet Union in 1921, the Kars Treaty drew the current boundaries of Turkey and Armenia. The treaty also recognized the historic Armenian territories of Karabakh and Nakhichevan as being part of then Soviet Azerbaijan.

Hovanessian emphasized that Basbug’s comments were indicative of the pre-conditions being pushed by Turkey, adding that the Armenian government’s continued silence on the matter is “a dangerous policy shift that must be corrected.”

It remains unclear, when the Armenian and Turkish governments plan to establish diplomatic relations and reopen the border. Neither government has officially disclosed the framework yet.

Meanwhile, reports in the Turkish press have said that the United States was closely involved in the drawing up of the Turkish-Armenian statement. According to “Hurriyet Daily News,” Erdogan agreed to sign it only after Washington threatened to recognize the Genocide.

Meanwhile, diplomatic sources in Yerevan said on Thursday that Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian will fly to Washington this weekend for talks with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Turkish-Armenian relations will be high on their agenda.

Clinton and Nalbandian already discussed the issue over the phone on Monday. According to the Armenian Foreign Ministry, Clinton described the “roadmap” agreement as “historic.”

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