TODAY.AZ / Politics

Oskanian says he aims to normalize relations with Turkey

16 October 2006 [12:42] - TODAY.AZ
The Armenian foreign minister describes the Turkish government's offer to set up a joint commission of historians to examine the killings as 'dishonest.'

Armenia's Foreign Minister Vardan Oskanian said on Sunday he would strive to normalize relations with Turkey despite deep misgivings about the Turkish refusal to regard the 1915-17 killings of Armenians by the Ottoman Turks as "genocide."

"That these events ... have so far not once been condemned or recognized is in reality a continuation of the genocide," Oskanian was quoted as saying in an interview with the Swiss newspaper NZZ am Sonntag.

"However, as foreign minister I have a duty to look to the future and to seek and establish normal relations with Turkey," he added.

Turkey severed diplomatic relations with neighboring Armenia after Armenian troops occupied the Azeri territory of Nagorno Karabakh. The border gate between Turkey and Armenia has been closed for more than a decade.

Ankara now says normalization of ties depends on Armenian withdrawal from Nagorno-Karabakh as well as on progress in the resolution of a series of bilateral disagreements, including Armenia's ceasing its support of Armenian diaspora efforts to secure international recognition for an alleged genocide of Armenians at the hands of the Ottoman Empire last century.

Oskanian in Sunday's comments reiterated his country's satisfaction with the French National Assembly's vote last Thursday approving a bill that would make it a crime to deny that the Armenian killings were "genocide," as well as a similar move by the Swiss parliament in 2003.

However, he also expressed mixed feelings about the practical value of these measures. "Whether the French or the Swiss legislation is a good starting point is hard to say," he said, adding that recognition of the "genocide" by other countries "is not a goal in itself."

"Armenia also has no interest in humiliating Turkey," he said.

Oskanian also said the Turkish government's offer to set up a joint commission of historians to examine the killings was "dishonest" so long as Turkey kept its border with Armenia closed and explicitly outlawed the use of the word "genocide" in the sensitive Armenian issue.

"Our president has told [Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip] Erdogan that Armenia is ready to talk as soon as the borders are open and as soon as there are bilateral relations. When this is the case, an intergovernmental commission can discuss this question," he told the newspaper.

Erdogan last year sent a letter to Armenian President Robert Kocharian proposing the establishment of a joint committee of Turkish and Armenian academics to study the allegations, but his proposal was turned down by Kocharian, who instead offered an intergovernmental commission that would study ways of resolving problems between the two neighboring countries. Turkey says its proposal is still on the table. TDN with AFP

/Turkish Daily News/


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