Washington briefing: Senior Turkish official: “Armenians aren’t our enemies”

by Emil Sanamyan and Lusine Sarkisyan

Published: Saturday November 01, 2008

On a visit to Washington this week, Ahmet Davuto?lu, described as the architect of the Turkish government's foreign policy in the last five years, sought to warn the campaign of the Democratic Party presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama (D.-Ill.) against changing U.S. policy on the Armenian Genocide, while reiterating Turkey's desire to improve relations with Armenia and Armenian-Americans.

In remarks at a Brookings Institution event on October 28, Mr. Davuto?lu insisted that Turkey wants "to have best relations with Armenia," and "good relations" with Armenians everywhere in the diaspora, and that he and his government "don't see Armenia as a threat; we don't see Armenians as enemies."

Responding to a question from the Armenian Reporter, he said President Abdullah Gul's visit to Yerevan in early September was "done with the purpose of improving our relations with Armenians, not as a response to the Georgian crisis [and] was not a visit of realpolitik."

The "decision to visit Yerevan was clear immediately after [the invitation from President Serge Sargsian] was received [in July] but of course it was not publicized," he said.

At the Brookings event, Alan Makovsky, a senior Democratic staff member for the House Foreign Affairs Committee, appeared to take to heart Azerbaijan's "nervousness" over Armenian-Turkish talks and wondered what Turkey's "red lines" were with regard to Karabakh.

Mr. Davutoglu's comments suggested that unlike its unchanged position on the Armenian Genocide, the Turkish government may be considering dropping or modifying its preconditions related to the Karabakh conflict.

While reiterating that Turkey has close ties with Azerbaijan, and arguing that the Karabakh conflict should be resolved sooner rather than later, Mr. Davutoglu declined to link such a resolution directly to Armenian-Turkish talks focused on establishing diplomatic relations and opening the border.

Ambassador Davuto?lu, who is the chief foreign policy advisor to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdo?an, was dispatched to U.S., as the Turkish Hurriyet daily put it, to "warn the future U.S. administration against endorsing Armenian claims of genocide at the hands of the Ottoman Empire."

"A step in the wrong direction will pose a risk not only to the Turkish-American strategic cooperation but also to Turkey's efforts to reach out to Armenia," Mr. Davuto?lu was quoted as saying after talks with Bush Administration officials and Republican and Democratic campaign advisors.

Meanwhile, speaking at the Jamestown Foundation on October 29, Graham Fuller, a veteran Turkey expert for the RAND Corporation, stressed that considering the long list of differences between the two countries - especially on Iran and Russia - Turkey "is no longer a U.S. ally."

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The Cafesjian Foundation has taken a difficult decision to close The Armenian Reporter. We regret that we are forced to take this decision after more than eight years of publishing. We thank our readers and all individuals who have contributed to the Reporter. Kathleen Cafesjian Baradaran Chair, Cafesjian Family Foundation

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