Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Armenian PM tells EU: too soon to make Turkey a member

Tue Sep 25, 2007 9:24am EDT
By Dmitry Solovyov

MOSCOW, Sept 25 (Reuters) - Armenia said on Tuesday the European Union would be making a "strange" decision if it admitted Turkey before Ankara had made progress in settling disputes with Yerevan.

Turkey shut its borders with its tiny neighbour Armenia in 1993 in protest at Armenian forces' capture of territory inside Azerbaijan, Ankara's historic Muslim ally, during fighting over the Nagorno-Karabakh region.

The two countries are also at odds over Anakara's refusal to acknowledge as genocide the massacre of large numbers of Armenians in Ottoman Turkey at the start of the last century. Turkey has no diplomatic ties with the former Soviet republic.

"I believe it would be very strange for the Europeans to accept to their family a country which sometimes employs principles running counter to the principles of the European Union," Armenian Prime Minister Serzh Sarksyan said.

But Sarksyan, speaking at a news briefing during a visit to Russia, a close ally, said he believed the EU application would pressure Ankara into changing its stance on the border with Armenia and on diplomatic relations.

"I believe ... the more time passes the harder it gets for them to stick to this position, because Turkey aspires to join the European Union and faces a long negotiation process."

"So the ball is in Turkey's yard, nothing depends on us," said Sarksyan, a close ally of Armenian President Robert Kocharyan. Many observers expect that when Kocharyan steps down next year, Sarksyan will replace him as president.

Armenians and some European nations describe the 1915-17 killings of Armenians, as the Ottoman Empire collapsed, as genocide. Turkey maintains they were part of a partisan conflict in which many Turks, Armenians and other nationalities died.

It is a crime in Turkey to call the killings genocide.

Earlier this year a French parliamentary bill making it a crime to deny the killings were genocide soured relations between Paris and Ankara. Turkey suspended talks on a major gas pipeline with Gaz de France in protest at the bill.

Note: Above are excerpts from the article. The full article appears here. Clarifications and comments by me are contained in {}. Deletions are marked by [...]. The bold emphasis is mine.



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