Turkish media commentators have raised the possibility of opening of the border following reports earlier this month that the Interior Ministry had asked local authorities in the border provinces of Kars and Iğdır about preparations for a possible opening. The ministry had asked the governor’s offices in the two provinces how much time it would take for the gates and roads to be fully functional in the event of a possible border opening, according to reports.
Davutoğlu, speaking to reporters in Almaty, Kazakhstan, on Saturday, said the communication with the local authorities was nothing but an exchange of information regarding the level of preparedness for a possible post-disaster situation, such as an earthquake, and on ways to deliver aid to victims. “There is no such thing as the opening of the border. It is not on the government’s agenda and reports to that effect are wrong,” Davutoğlu told reporters on the sidelines of an Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) meeting.
Turkey closed its border in 1993 in a show of solidarity with Azerbaijan in its war with Armenia over Nagorno-Karabakh. When Turkey signed two protocols on restoring diplomatic ties and opening the border with Armenia in October, Azerbaijan angrily protested, saying the normalization of Turkish-Armenian relations without progress in the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute would have risks for regional stability. Turkey later backtracked, saying the border will never be opened unless Armenia withdraws from the Azerbaijani land it occupied.
Davutoğlu had talks with his Azerbaijani counterpart, Elmar Mammadyarov, while in Almaty, during which the border issue came up. “I have told Elmar as well that there is no such thing as a border opening pending. No one should have any such expectations,” he said.
Despite the stalemate in Turkey-Armenia reconciliation efforts, Turkey is planning to take part in an exercise to be held in Armenia by NATO’s Euro-Atlantic Disaster Response Coordination Center (EADRCC).
Foreign Ministry officials last week told Today’s Zaman that Turkey will participate in the disaster response exercise called “Armenia 2010,” slated for Sept. 11-17. The officials said the border may be opened temporarily during the exercise and solely for the purposes of this particular event. “During technical discussions at NATO headquarters in Brussels a while ago, when such a possibility was raised by NATO officials, the Turkish side responded favorably,” an official said.
On Friday, the Foreign Ministry reaffirmed that a possible border opening would only be for the purposes of the exercise. In a statement, the ministry said an “exceptional and temporary” opening of the border was under consideration in case Turkey is asked to allow the overland transfer of the material to be used in the exercise to Armenia. Other comments and reports regarding this issue do not reflect the truth,” said the statement.
In addition to the problems related to the Azerbaijani-Armenian conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh, the Turkish-Armenian reconciliation process also hit a rocky patch in January after an Armenian court upheld the legality of the protocols but underlined that they could not contradict Yerevan’s official position that the alleged Armenian genocide must be internationally recognized. Turkey accused Yerevan of trying to set conditions on the deals.
No progress in Karabakh talks
There were hopes that the Almaty talks could produce some progress in the protracted Nagorno-Karabakh process, thus lifting a main obstacle for Turkish-Armenian rapprochement, but Mammadyarov, speaking after talks with Armenian Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian, said the stalemate persisted.
“The Armenian side insists on its position that prevents a solution,” Mammadyarov was quoted as telling reporters by the Anatolia news agency after meeting with Davutoğlu. The Azerbaijani minister reviewed the situation during his talks with Davutoğlu, which came after his meeting with Nalbandian and representatives of the OSCE’s Minsk Group, which has been trying to mediate a solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh problem for several years.
Azerbaijan says Armenia must withdraw from seven occupied regions while the status of Nagorno-Karabakh remains a subject of further talks. Armenia, in contrast, proposes that the status of Nagorno-Karabakh first be determined in a referendum for it to withdraw from other occupied regions.
Mammadyarov was quoted last week as saying that Azerbaijan and Armenia have already agreed to an Armenian withdrawal from five provinces adjacent to Nagorno-Karabakh and that this issue will no longer be discussed. According to the Azerbaijani foreign minister, once a peace accord is signed between the nations, Armenia will immediately withdraw from the occupied regions, while Kelbajar and Lachin must be returned within five years.
But during the Saturday meeting, Armenia insisted on a referendum first before taking any action on withdrawal and thus the talks produced no result, Mammadyarov said. İstanbul Today’s Zaman