Turkey, Armenia acknowledge that border will not be opened anytime soon
The two countries announce an agreement on a “road-map” for an “on-going process” of normalizing relations
by Vincent Lima
Published: Wednesday April 22, 2009
Yerevan - In a clear indication that there were no prospects for the immediate normalization of relations between Armenia and Turkey, the foreign ministries of the two countries issued a joint statement on April 22 announcing that they had agreed an a framework for an "on-going process" toward normalization.
The brief statement, which was cosigned by Switzerland as mediator, announced that Armenia and Turkey "have agreed on a comprehensive framework for the normalization of their bilateral relations in a mutually satisfactory manner." The statement said "a road-map has been identified," but provided no details.
The statement was plainly timed to allow President Barack Obama to cite it in any message he may release on April 24, the day the Armenian Genocide is commemorated.
Asked by the Armenian Reporter how Armenia's interests were served by the timing of the joint statement, the spokesperson of Armenia's Foreign Ministry would only say, "The position of the Foreign Ministry is expressed in the statement."
Reacting to the joint statement, Acting State Department spokesperson Robert Wood said the U.S. position remained that "normalization should take place without preconditions and within a reasonable timeframe," Mediamax reported.
But Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on April 19 had reiterated Turkey's main precondition for reopening the border with Armenia, which it closed 16 years ago. Speaking in Germany, Mr. Erdogan said, "A decision to open the border gate with Armenia will depend on the Nagorno-Karabakh issue being solved. If the Armenian occupation of Azeri territory continues, Turkey will not open its border gate," Sabah reported.
Mr. Erdogan's announcement effectively ruled out the normalization of relations with Armenia in the foreseeable future.
In the run-up to April 24, Yerevan, Ankara, and Washington repeatedly indicated that a deal on opening the border was imminent. Asked in Istanbul on April 6 about pre-election pledges that as president he would recognize the Armenian Genocide, Mr. Obama had argued that talks between Armenia and Turkey could "bear fruit very quickly very soon" and he did not want to "tilt" in favor of either side, presumably by speaking candidly about the Armenian Genocide.
In testimony before the House Foreign Affairs Committee on April 22, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said she had "been very encouraged by the bold steps that have recently been taken by Turkish and Armenian leaders to reconcile their countries with each other and with their shared and painful past."
The joint statement on April 22 reported "tangible progress and mutual understanding," but made it clear that Mr. Obama's hopes that the talks would "bear fruit very quickly" were not justified.
The full text of the joint statement follows.
Joint Statement of the Ministries of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Armenia, the Republic of Turkey and the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs
Turkey and Armenia, together with Switzerland as mediator, have been working intensively with a view to normalizing their bilateral relations and developing them in a spirit of good-neighborliness, and mutual respect, and thus to promoting peace, security and stability in the whole region.
The two parties have achieved tangible progress and mutual understanding in this process and they have agreed on a comprehensive framework for the normalization of their bilateral relations in a mutually satisfactory manner. In this context, a road-map has been identified.
This agreed basis provides a positive prospect for the on-going process.
22 April 2009