Today's Zaman
Sept 3 2008

Foreign Minister Ali Babacan has responded to nationalist opposition
leader Devlet Bahceli -- who suggested the government acted under
foreign pressure concerning rapprochement moves with Armenia --
reminding him of past contacts between late Alpaslan TurkeÅ~_, the
founder of Bahceli's party, and Armenian officials.

The debate on the issue stemmed from Armenian President Serzh
Sarksyan's invitation to President Abdullah Gul to watch the World
Cup qualifying game between the two countries' national soccer teams
on Sept. 6. Gul has so far remained cautious on the matter, saying he
is still considering whether or not to accept the invitation from his
Armenian counterpart, Serzh Sarksyan. However, Prime Minister Recep
Tayyip Erdogan, speaking to reporters over the weekend, indicated
that Gul would go to Yerevan for the match.

Such signs hinting that Gul would positively respond to the invitation
prompted Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Bahceli to release
a written statement on the issue on Monday.

"Going to Armenia by bowing to foreign pressures and impositions
and by surrendering to Armenian lobbies inside [the country] will be
historical heedlessness and such a manner will wound Turkey's honor,"
Bahceli said in the statement.

Babacan, in a statement to the Anatolia news agency on Monday evening,
first of all noted that no decision had yet been made as to Gul's
travel to Yerevan.

"We have difficulty in understanding Mr. Bahceli's statement that
this visit will harm Turkey's honor and self-esteem," Babacan said,
saying that it was not possible to accept Bahceli's accusing statement.

Turkey has recognized Armenia since the early 1990s and there have
been contacts at various levels between the two countries, including
those held by statesmen of the time starting from the first half of
the 1990s.

"Within this framework, there are talks held in line with the
responsibility of a statesman by the late Alpaslan TurkeÅ~_ with
[Levon] Ter-Petrosian," Babacan said, referring to talks between
former Armenian President Ter-Petrosian and former MHP leader TurkeÅ~_
in 1993.

At the time, TurkeÅ~_ indicated that he had informed the prime minister
and foreign minister of Turkey that a meeting was planned between
himself and Ter-Petrossian, noting that the Turkish ambassador and
counselor were also at the meeting which was aimed at trying to see
if the war between Armenia and Azerbaijan could be stopped.

"If this visit is carried out, it will not be a result of foreign
pressures and impositions, but will be a reflection of Turkey's
constructive efforts for making contribution to peace and stability
in the international field and in its region," Babacan said.