Turkish President To Visit Armenia

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Turkey and Armenia have had no diplomatic ties since Armenia became independent from the Soviet Union in 1991.

Said Turkish President Recep T a y y i p Erdogan, “I hope it will be good. Our foreign minister will accompany [Gul] and a meeting will take place there.”

T u r k i s h Foreign Minister Ali Babacan announced on Sunday that he is sending a diplomatic delegation to Yerevan to discuss with Armenian officials practical modalities of what would be the first-ever visit to Armenia by a Turkish head of state. “A delegation from my ministry will travel to Armenia in the course of the coming week to discuss the form of a possible visit by the head of state,” Babacan told a news conference in Istanbul.

A diplomatic source said on Monday that the Turkish delegation is headed by Foreign Ministry Deputy Undersecretary Unal Cevikoz and is scheduled to arrive in Yerevan in advance of the president.

According to Babacan, the Turkish officials will also explore the Armenian government’s reaction to an Ankara proposal to form a regional cooperation framework that would bring together Turkey, Russia, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia. Turkish leaders have already discussed the proposed Caucasus Stability and Cooperation Platform with their Russian, Georgian and Azerbaijani counterparts.

Erdogan reiterated on Saturday that he would like Armenia to be part of the regional alliance despite the fact that it has no diplomatic relations with Turkey. “Why is Armenia included in this, why is Georgia included in this? Because we chose [them] for inclusion [in the platform] on a geographic basis. We have to succeed in this so that the region will become a region of welfare and ease,” he said, according to Anatolia.

Turkey has until now made the establishment of diplomatic relations and the opening of its border with Armenia conditional on a resolution of the Nagorno-Karabagh conflict acceptable to Azerbaijan. It has also demanded an end the Armenian campaign for international recognition of the 1915 Armenian Genocide. Whether Ankara is now ready to drop these preconditions remains unclear.

The Turkish Daily Newson Monday quoted an unnamed Turkish official as saying that Gul’s visit to Yerevan would not signify any changes in Turkey’s long-standing policy toward Armenia. “This visit will have no impact on our policies,” the official said.

(Radio Free Europe contributed to this report.)

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