STRASBURG (RFE/RL)–A top European Union official urged EU aspirant Turkey to reopen its border with Armenia, piling pressure on Ankara to normalize ties with Yerevan after U.S. President Barack Obama made a similar call last week.
Peter Semneby, the EU’s special envoy for the South Caucasus, said normalizing Turkish-Armenian ties would benefit the region and would help Turkey’s hopes of joining the bloc.
“Fundamentally this would be a development that I think could lead to further positive developments that would in return benefit us, benefit the region and would therefore benefit Turkey and the European Union,” Semneby told a panel interview including Reuters late on Tuesday. “It [opening the border] will certainly not hurt Turkey’s EU perspectives,” he said.
Semneby said the EU is not putting pressure on Turkey to recognize the mass killings of Armenians by Ottoman Turks in 1915 as genocide, a claim which Ankara strongly denies. “I can only talk on the behalf of the European Union, and there is absolutely no such pressure, absolutely not. This is not an issue of ours. We are not involved on that issue.”
Obama, in a visit to NATO ally Turkey earlier this month, also pressed Ankara and Yerevan to complete talks soon. But Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan has said the deadlock over the Nagorno-Karabakh enclave, over which Armenia and Azerbaijan fought a war in the late 1980s and early 1990s, must be resolved before Turkey and Armenia strike a deal.
Azerbaijan, which sells gas and oil to Turkey, opposes its ally opening the border because such a deal could take away the incentive for Armenia to negotiate over Nagorno-Karabakh.