YEREVAN (Azatutyun.am)—Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Sunday that Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan has offered to meet with him for talks on improving Turkish-Armenian relations.
Erdogan appeared to make such talks conditional on Armenia agreeing to open a transport corridor that would connect Azerbaijan to its Nakhichevan exclave.
“It is bewildering that on the one hand Pashinyan is saying that the Armenian side is not discussing that [corridor] issue and on the other expressing a desire to meet with me,” he said. “If he wants to meet with Tayyip Erdogan then clear steps will have to be taken.”
Erdogan said that the offer was communicated to him by Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Gharibashvili. The latter met with Pashinyan in Tbilisi on September 8.
Pashinyan did not explicitly deny making such an offer when he reacted to Erdogan’s remarks through his spokeswoman, Mane Gevorgyan, on Monday.
“As of now, there have been no contacts between Armenian and Turkish officials, even though the Armenian government is prepared for such contacts,” Gevorgyan told the Armenpress news agency. “In the event of such productive work, Armenia will also be ready for meetings at a high and the highest level.”
Gevorgyan also criticized Erdogan’s calls for the “Nakhichevan corridor,” saying that such statements run counter to efforts to establish “peace and stability and overcome the atmosphere of enmity in the region.” She said that Armenia stands for the opening of all regional transport links.
Pashinyan spoke on August 27 of “some positive signals” sent by the Turkish government to Yerevan and said his administration is ready to reciprocate them.
Erdogan responded by saying that Ankara is open to normalizing Turkish-Armenian relations. But he cited in that context Azerbaijan’s demands for a formal Armenian recognition of Azerbaijani sovereignty over Nagorno-Karabakh.
Pashinyan described Erdogan’s statements as encouraging and reiterated his readiness to embark on a dialogue with Ankara hours before flying to Tbilisi on September 8.
Armenian opposition leaders and some analysts say Ankara continues to link the normalization of Turkish-Armenian relations to a resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict favorable to Baku. They say the Turks also want Yerevan to stop campaigning for a greater international recognition of the 1915 Armenian genocide in the Ottoman Empire.
Erdogan expressed hope on Sunday that the “problem between Armenia and Azerbaijan will be overcome through the opening of corridors.”
Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev threatened earlier this year to forcibly open a corridor to Nakhichevan through Armenia’s southeastern Syunik province repeatedly described by him as “historical Azerbaijani lands.” Yerevan strongly condemned the threat.
A Russian-brokered ceasefire agreement that stopped last year’s war in Karabakh commits Armenia to opening rail and road links between Nakhichevan and the rest of Azerbaijan. Armenia should be able, for its part, to use Azerbaijani territory as a transit route for cargo shipments to and from Russia and Iran.
Armenian leaders maintain that the agreement does not call for the creation of a permanent land corridor for Nakhichevan. The Azerbaijani region also borders Turkey.
Turkey provided decisive military assistance to Azerbaijan during the six-week war in Karabakh. Armenia says that Turkish military personnel participated in the hostilities on the Azerbaijani side along with thousands of mercenaries recruited in Syria’s Turkish-controlled northern regions.