Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his Azerbaijani counterpart Ilham Aliyev were in a celebratory mood in 2018 (photo mod.gov.az)

Armenian Pro-Government Lawmaker Encouraged by Erdogan’s Statement

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YEREVAN (RFE/RL) — An Armenian pro-government parliamentarian on Monday, August 30, hailed Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s stated readiness to normalize Turkey’s relations with Armenia.

Opposition lawmakers insisted, by contrast, Ankara continues to set unacceptable preconditions for establishing diplomatic relations with Yerevan and opening the Turkish-Armenian border.

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan spoke on Friday of “some positive signals” sent by Ankara of late, saying that his government is ready to reciprocate them.

Commenting on Pashinyan’s remark the following day, Erdogan said regional states should establish “good-neighborly relations” by recognizing each other’s territorial integrity and sovereignty.

“If Yerevan is ready to move in that direction Ankara could start working on a gradual normalization of relations with Armenia,” he reportedly told journalists.

In that context, Erdogan noted that Azerbaijan has expressed readiness to negotiate a comprehensive “peace treaty” with Armenia after last year’s war in Nagorno-Karabakh.

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Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev complained in July that Yerevan is reluctant to sign such a treaty with Baku which would commit the two sides to recognizing each other’s territorial integrity. This would presumably mean a formal Armenian recognition of Azerbaijani sovereignty over Karabakh.

The Armenian government maintains that the disputed territory’s status should be determined only through renewed peace talks mediated by the United States, Russia and France.

The government did not officially react to Erdogan’s latest statement as of Monday afternoon. Still, Maria Karapetyan, a parliament deputy representing the ruling Civil Contract party, described it as a “positive message for discussing regional peace.”

“This is just an indirect exchange of public messages,” she told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service.

Karapetyan, who is a member of the parliament committee on foreign relations, said Erdogan’s remarks contained no preconditions unacceptable to the Armenian side.

Senior members of the two opposition groups represented in the Armenian parliament claimed the opposite. They said the Turks want Yerevan to agree to the restoration of Azerbaijani control over entire Karabakh and to stop campaigning for greater international recognition of the 1915 Armenian genocide in the Ottoman Empire.

“Throughout his tenure Erdogan has periodically made such statements and has been rebuffed by the Armenian authorities and told to talk to Armenia, open the border and normalize relations without preconditions. Now Erdogan is coming up with a huge package of preconditions,” said Gegham Manukyan of the Hayastan alliance.

“The current authorities must categorically reject all those preconditions,” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service. “But judging from their actions and constant readiness to make concessions, I have no such hope.”

Tigran Abrahamyan, a senior lawmaker from the Pativ Unem bloc, said, for his part, that Ankara and Baku continue to coordinate their actions relating to the Karabakh conflict. He said those include Azerbaijani cross-border incursions into Armenian territory and Aliyev’s regular threats to forcibly open a “corridor” connecting Azerbaijan to its Nakhichevan exclave via Armenia’s Syunik province.

Turkey provided Azerbaijan with strong diplomatic and military support during the six-week war stopped by a Russian-brokered ceasefire last November. It has kept its border with Armenia closed since 1993.

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