Armenian minister in favour of improving ties with Turkey

Haykakan Zhamanak, Yerevan
1 Jul 04

Text of Anna Akopyan report by Armenian newspaper Haykakan Zhamanak on
1 July headlined "The attitude was normal"

An interview with [Armenian] Foreign Minister Vardan Oskanyan.

[Haykakan Zhamanak correspondent] Mr Oskanyan, although you assessed
the meeting with the Turkish and Azerbaijani foreign ministers
positively, you said that the meeting did not yield any tangible
results. Nevertheless, Turkey's Prime Minister Erdogan said that they
view the meeting as an opportunity to get the frozen processes in the
South Caucasus out of deadlock.

[Vardan Oskanyan] Maybe they had such a purpose, but the fact is that
there was no progress as a result of the trilateral meeting. Erdogan
did not say that there was progress, but he thinks that the meeting
might lead to progress. This trilateral meeting was not only
connected with the Karabakh issue, it was much more expanded.

[Correspondent] The resolution by NATO member countries says that NATO
highly appreciates Georgia and Azerbaijan's rapprochement with NATO
and the fact that they have individual action programmes. There is no
word about Armenia in the resolution. In this sense, how do you assess
Armenia's further potential in developing relations with NATO?

[Oskanyan] This is the next step of cooperation with NATO, which
Azerbaijan and Georgia have already taken and want to establish. We
are discussing that issue and will inform NATO after taking a
decision.

[Correspondent] After your meeting with Turkey's Foreign Minister
Abdullah Gul, you said that although Turkey has a great desire to
improve its relations with Armenia, the political moment is not ripe
for them yet. Is that moment ripe for Armenia?

[Oskanyan] I said it is not ripe in Turkey because they cannot show
political will. In response to the objections of some circles, I can
say that Armenia wants and is ready to regulate its relations with
Turkey without pre-conditions.

[Correspondent] Recently [Armenian President] Robert Kocharyan told
Turkey from a high rostrum that they are wrong if they think that we
cannot live and develop without them. Today from another high rostrum
you said that Turkey plays a big role in the Caucasus, including in
Armenia. Was this sector of your speech directed at softening the
impression made by Kocharyan's speech?

[Oskanyan] No, it was not. In fact, today we do not depend on Turkey,
our economy is really developing. Even if Turkey decides to perpetuate
this situation forever, I think we shall continue to develop at quite
a quick pace. So for Armenia the improvement of relations with Turkey
is not a problem of life and death. Simply, we do not see any reason
not to have normal relations with our neighbours. As for Azerbaijan,
everything is clear here - there is the Karabakh conflict and it
should be settled, then we can start improving relations. As for
Turkey, in a bilateral sense, there is no obstacle that does not allow
us to have normal relations. That is, on the one hand, if Turkey
continues this way, this will not create a deadly situation for
Armenia, and on the other, it is always desirable to have friendly
relations with neighbours, which will certainly open wider
opportunities for economic development. But it should be stressed that
Turkey also needs to open the border and improve relations in the
economic and political sense, especially in terms of being present in
the Caucasus, because Turkey has such a desire and wants to play such
a role in the region. But it cannot do so only because it cannot
establish normal relations with Armenia, so this is a bilateral way.

[Correspondent] Mr Oskanyan, do you not think that after Robert
Kocharyan's speech in Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe
[PACE], Turkey demonstrated a pronounced attitude towards our
delegation and you as its head? You seemed to be displeased while
boarding the airplane.

[Oskanyan] It was a very normal attitude, and my meetings with the
Turkish authorities, mainly with the foreign minister, were very
warm. I also had an opportunity to have a very warm conversation with
Turkey's prime minister. Their attitude towards Armenia was warmer
than necessary.