Armenia, Turkey to Continue Talks


By Ruben Meloyan

ISTANBUL (RFE/RL) — Armenia’s leader will pay a visit to Turkey next fall, it emerged late on Monday after the talks of the Armenian and Turkish foreign ministers in Istanbul.

President Serge Sargisian is expected to attend theWorld Cup qualifier between the Armenian and Turkish national teams, to be held here in October 2009.

Turkish President Abdullah Gul attended a similar soccer match in Yerevan last September.

Foreign Minister Eduard Nalbandian was in Turkey to attend a meeting of the Istanbul-based Black Sea Economic Cooperation, an organization with a dozen member nations, including Armenia, which recently assumed its rotating chairmanship.

Before meeting his counterpart, Ali Babaçan, Nalbandian held a press conference during which he said that the establishment of diplomatic relations and opening of the border between Armenia and Turkey is in the interest of both nations and can serve as a means for establishing security in the region.

“When I am saying normalizing relations I mean the opening of borders without any precondition and establishing diplomatic relations, and Armenia is ready to do that without any preconditions,” Nalbandian said. “We expect the same approach from the Turkish side. I am optimistic because I don’t think we have any serious obstacles to normalizing our relations.”

The two states have not had diplomatic relations since 1993.

“Meetings will be continued at different levels and an agreement was reached to continue joint efforts aimed at normalizing bilateral relations,” the spokesman added.

“I think re-opening the border is also among Turkey’s priorities; it is important for both countries’ interests,” he added.

Some rapprochement has been observed in the relations between the two estranged neighbors after the Turkish head of state responded to his Armenian counterpart’s invitation and paid a historic visit to Yerevan to attend a soccer match.

The latest negotiations between the two countries’ top diplomats reportedly lasted more than two hours and were held behind closed doors. The sides were reportedly to have discussed bilateral relations, the recent Turkish initiative of establishing a so-called cooperation and security platform in the Caucasus as well as other issues concerning the broader region.

“Our aim is to totally normalize bilateral relations,” Babaçan said after the meeting, according to media reports.
(The BBC contributed to this report.)