Erdoğan signals political ties with Armenia

TDN Saturday, April 30, 2005


In remarks seen as a sign of policy shift, the prime minister says
study of history could run parallel to establishment of political
relations. FM Gül announces, however, there are no plans to
open up the border gate

ANKARA ` Turkish Daily News


Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was quoted as saying
yesterday that Turkey could establish political relations with
neighboring Armenia while historians study events during 1915 and 1918
in a bid to clarify whether Armenians in the Ottoman Empire were
subject to a genocide campaign.

Turkey categorically denies charges of genocide and Erdoğan has
recently sent a letter to Armenian President Robert Kocharian
proposing establishment of a joint commission of historians to study
the events of the World War I years. Kocharian, however, suggested in
his reply an inter-governmental commission that would be tasked with
investigating ways to normalize relations between Turkey and Armenia.

`A political relationship can be established on the one hand, while
studies continue on the other. There is no great wall between Turkey
and Armenia,' Erdoğan told daily Milliyet in an interview.

Foreign Minister Abdullah Gül, when asked to comment upon
Erdoğan's remarks, said there were no plans at the moment to
open the border gate with Armenia.

`What the prime minister emphasized is that Turkey is good
intentioned, supports stability in its region and is open to
developing relations with its neighbors. But such things can't be
one-sided,' Gül told reporters in the central Anatolian city of
Kayseri. `There would definitely be an improvement if there is mutual
goodwill.'

Turkey severed its diplomatic relations with Armenia and closed its
border gate with the landlocked country in the last decade after
Armenian troops occupied the Azeri territory of
Nagorno-Karabakh. Ankara says normalization of ties depends on
Armenia's stopping their support of genocide allegations and formally
accepting its current borders with Turkey, as well as withdrawal from
Nagorno-Karabakh.

In his letter delivered to the Turkish side earlier this week,
Kocharian said the border gate should be opened, as even countries
which are at war with each other keep their borders open.

Erdoğan, however, took a cautious line, saying Armenia should
also demonstrate goodwill. `Why are you continuing efforts to get
recognition of the alleged genocide all over the world, while asking
me to open up the border? I should see a sign of goodwill,'
Erdoğan said.

Armenians stepped up efforts to win international backing for their
allegations of genocide, hoping that the 90th anniversary of the
alleged genocide on April 24 would increase sympathy for their cause.

Erdoğan said his government has allowed flights between Yerevan
and Istanbul in a goodwill gesture and the Culture Ministry has been
given instructions to renovate an Armenian church in eastern Anatolia
in coordination with the Armenian patriarchate of Turkey.

`These are positive messages from us. We need to get similar messages
from the other side too,' Erdoğan said.



EU provokes nationalism':

The prime minister also criticized the European Union for
`intentionally provoking' nationalism in Turkey's Southeast, where
Kurds dominate the population. `This stirs up another kind of
nationalism,' he said, referring to the rise in current Turkish
nationalism.

Erdoğan said the EU relied on `unhealthy sources' while making
its assessments on the issue. `I am from the Black Sea region and my
wife is an Arab from the southeastern city of Siirt If you stir
up a certain sort of nationalism, another sort of nationalism begins
to rise. This is wrong,' he said.