Today's Zaman, Turkey
Jan 4 2008

Ankara's eyes on upcoming elections in neighboring countries

Ankara has been closely following developments regarding the upcoming
scheduled elections to be held in Turkey's neighboring countries.

The presidential elections in both Armenia and Greek Cyprus are
subjects of particular interest for the Turkish capital as it doesn't
have diplomatic relations with Yerevan and it doesn't recognize the
Greek Cypriot government, which officially represents the entire
island in the international arena.
Turkey has recognized Armenia since the former Soviet republic gained
independence in 1991 but nevertheless refuses to establish diplomatic
ties because of Armenian efforts to secure international condemnation
of the controversial World War I-era killings of Anatolian Armenians
as genocide. Armenians claim up to 1.5 million of their kin were
slaughtered in orchestrated killings during the last years of the
Ottoman Empire. Turkey categorically rejects the claims, saying that
300,000 Armenians along with at least as many Turks died in civil
strife, emerging when the Armenians took up arms for independence in
eastern Anatolia and sided with the Russian troops who were invading
Ottoman lands.

In 1993 Turkey also shut its border with Armenia in a show of
solidarity with its close ally, Azerbaijan, which was at war with
Armenia over the Nagorno-Karabakh enclave, dealing a heavy economic
blow to the impoverished nation. Ankara wants Armenia to abandon its
campaign for recognition of the killings as genocide and to make
progress in its dispute with Baku before formal diplomatic relations
are re-established.

No imminent change in Yerevan's stance on the genocide issue is
expected following the elections. Yet, a change of power in Greek
Cyprus after the elections, which are scheduled for Feb. 17, may well
lead to opening a new period of efforts for finding a comprehensive
resolution to the decades-long Cyprus issue.

Four candidates are in the running in southern part of the island,
including the incumbent, Tassos Papadopoulos, seeking a second
five-year term, and Demetris Christofias, the leader of Greek Cyprus'
communist Progressive Party of Working People (AKEL). Christofias --
who was the key backer of Papadopoulos' center-left alliance until he
quit in the summer of 2007 -- has accused Papadopoulos of dragging
his feet on attempts to solve the island's division.

A fresh dialogue may start between Greek and Turkish Cypriots if
Christofias is elected to power, analysts say. Turkish diplomatic
sources, meanwhile, emphasize that whoever comes to power in Greek
Cyprus, a leadership that renews itself as well as refreshing
people's confidence will have a stronger hand for taking new

The same sources note that new activity concerning the Cyprus issue
will be seen following the spring season. They say that significant
progress will be difficult, yet a good opportunity for some progress
will open up then.