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OSKANYAN IN ISTANBUL

Ömer Engin LÜTEM, Retired Ambassador
26 June 2007 - ERAREN
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ellspacing="0" ceÿ» OSKANYAN IN ISTANBULî

Although Armenia is a member of Black Sea Economic Cooperation Organization (BSEC), Armenian President Robert Koçaryan did not attend the latest summit meeting organized in ?stanbul. It was argued in the newspapers that Armenian Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian, who attended the meeting on behalf of Armenia, said President Kocharian did not attend because of the lack of diplomatic relations between Turkey and Armenia.

2nd because of the lack of diplomatic relations between Turkey and Armenia. If there is no official visit in case of lack of diplomatic relations, why did Oskanian come to Istanbul? Wouldn’t lack of diplomatic relations impede the visit of a foreign minister if it impedes the visit of the president? There is no such weird practice in international law or customs. By the way, we should emphasize that president Kocharian had attended in 1999 the summit meeting of Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in Istanbul.

The reason of Kocharian’s non-attendance is that such a visit would not be welcomed by both Armenian public opinion and Armenian diaspora. Genocide allegations and closure of the land border have been so much discussed that these issues have created an anti-Turkish atmosphere and Armenian president preferred not to attend to the summit. However, his state has significant problems with Turkey and these issues can only be resolved through meetings. Relying on a wrong assumption that these issues would be resolved as a result of the pressure exerted by US and EU on Turkey, Armenian President avoid high-level correspondence with his Turkish counterparts.

Armenia did not only have problems with Turkey but also with Azerbaijan. As a result of the war between these two countries in the first years of 1990s, 20 percent of Azeri territories including Nagorno Karabagh is still under Armenian occupation. Almost one million Azeris living in these territories had to fled to Azerbaijan. In the Istanbul summit meeting Oskanian tried to justify their occupation of Azeri territories by arguing that Karabagh Armenians had defended themselves. Azeri President Aliyev, on the other hand, replied this argument by articulating that history must not be rewritten. He further underlined Karabagh was occupied by the Armenians and except Armenia all other BSEC members had already recognized territorial integrity of Azerbaijan. He also said that the war is not over yet; therefore there is no concrete winner.

After meeting with Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gül, Oskanyan made a press conference in which he repeated the classical Armenian perceptions. To cut it short, he first focused on the opening of Turkish-Armenian land border and that Armenia is ready for starting diplomatic relations with Turkey without any pre-conditions. However, he also pointed out that Turkey should open the border and to repel Article 301 of Turkish Penal Code in order to accept the formation of a joint commission of independent historians. While he mentioned that Turkish recognition of the ‘Armenian genocide’ was not a precondition, he also stated that there is no change of attitude of Armenia regarding the ‘Armenian genocide’ being an agenda item in Armenia. While he was complaining that there is no change of attitude towards Armenia in Turkey, he did not mention that there is no change of attitude towards Turkey in Armenia. As it can be seen, Armenian policy towards Turkey is full of contradictions.

The basic difference between the attitudes of two sides is that while Armenia demanded Turkey to open borders and to establish diplomatic relations with Armenia without giving up genocide allegations, recognizing territorial integrity of Turkey and ending its occupation in Azerbaijan, Turkey is defending to normalize relations after resolving these issues. Because these two attitudes are irreconcilable right now, it is not realistic to hope for complete normalization of Turkish-Armenian relations not only in the short term, but also in the medium term.

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