Armenia, Turkey Hold Secret Meetings

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Sargisian invited his Turkish counterpart, President Abdullah Gül, earlier this month to watch a FIFA World Cup qualifyingmatch between Turkey and Armenia in Yerevan in September. Gül, who has also said he wants greate cooperation, has yet to reply.

“A readiness to begin healthy discussions on existing problems in Armenia-Turkey relations has a p p e a r e d , ” Sargisian told journalists in Yerevan.

“A visit by Gül to Armenia could transform these tendencies into a stable and positive movement,” he said.

Ankara has refused to establish diplomatic ties with Armenia since its independence in 1991 because of Armenian efforts to secure international recognition of the World War I killings of Armenians as genocide.

Sargisian’s latest comments came after diplomats from the two countries met in Switzerland this month to discuss normalizing ties.

Turkish media reported that the talks were held in secret and marked an important step in reconciling the two sides. But, like Turkish officials, Sargisian downplayed the significance of the talks.

“There was no secret or reason to be surprised. Such contact between Armenian and Turkish diplomats never stopped. They have always taken place,” he said.

In 1993, Turkey shut its border with Armenia in a show of solidarity with its close ally Azerbaijan, then at war with Armenia, dealing a heavy economic blow to Armenia.

The Turkishny.com website reported that Turkish Foreign Minister Ali Babaçan confirmed the meetings, but avoided giving details.

Ankara, according to the website, is worried that if this meetings came to light, it will be met with opposition from Azerbaijan.

According to the Turkish Daily News, during these two meetings, the two sides agreed on the agenda.

As a result of the agreed-upon agenda, they reportedly created four committees, the Turkish Daily News reported: One is to deal with borders, a second with the Genocide, a third with reparations and a fourth with the Karabagh conflict and relations with Azerbaijan.

According to the same newspaper, there might be a third meeting in August.

Calls to the Armenian Embassy in Washington were not returned as of press time.

In a related story, Iran has offered to mediate between Armenia and Turkey. On July 18, Iranian Foreign Minister Manoochehr Mottaki was visiting Turkey and held a telephone conversation with his Armenian counterpart, Eduard Nalbandian. The Iranian ambassador to Turkey announced this news after Mottaki had left Turkey.

(Azg, Agence France-Presse, RFE/RL and PanArmenian.net contributed to this story.)

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