YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–Armenia on Thursday criticized Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan for again making the normalization of Turkish-Armenian relations conditional on a Nagorno-Karabakh settlement, saying that such statements could hamper Armenian-Azerbaijani negotiations.
Armenian leaders at the same time declined to comment on their implications for the success of the year-long Turkish-Armenian rapprochement.
Visiting Baku on Wednesday, Erdogan again publicly made clear that Turkey will not establish diplomatic relations and reopen its border with Armenia until the Karabakh conflict is resolved in a way that would satisfy Azerbaijan. “Occupation of Karabakh is the cause here and closing of the border is the effect. It is impossible for us to open the border unless that occupation ends,” he told a joint news conference with Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev.
President Serzh Sarkisian and Foreign Minister Eduard Nalbandian reacted to that as they separately met in Yerevan with Brian Fall, Britain’s special representative for the South Caucasus.
“The president said that, as he repeatedly pointed out during Armenian-Turkish contacts, any Turkish attempt to interfere in the settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh problem can only harm that process,” Sarkisian’s office said in a statement. “
According to the head of state, if Turkey wants to assist in a peaceful settlement of the conflict, then it had better not meddle in the process of conflict resolution at all.”
In a separate statement, the Armenian Foreign Ministry cited Nalbandian as making virtually identical comments. Neither statement specified whether Yerevan thinks Erdogan’s stance precludes further progress in the ongoing Turkish-Armenian fence-mending negotiations. The presidential and ministry press services declined to make further comments.
Sarkisian said after his May 8 talks in Prague with Turkey’s President Abdullah Gul that Ankara had agreed to honor a still unpublicized “roadmap” to normalizing bilateral ties that was announced by Ankara and Yerevan on April 22. He said the two states are continuing their dialogue “without preconditions.”
However, Erdogan on Wednesday dismissed as “slander” and “disinformation” earlier reports saying that Ankara is ready to stop linking border opening with Karabakh peace.
His remarks come as criticism mounts over Sarkisian’s conciliatory policy toward Turkey and its gross failure to secure an end to the Turkish blockade with no preconditions.
The Armenian Revolutionary Federation strongly condemned the April 22 roadmap agreement released on the eve of the 94th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide and left the governing coalition, citing “insurmountable, fundamental disagreements” over the government’s approach toward normalizing relations with Turkey.
The negotiations process has seen Yerevan make major concessions to Ankara, according to the ARF, which has repeatedly warned Sarkisian that Turkey is exploiting the process to become an actor in the Nagorno-Karabakh peace talks and to deter the United States from officially recognizing the Armenian Genocide.
Sarkisian is seen as largely responsible for U.S. President Barack Obama failure to recognize the Armenian Genocide in a recent statement.