Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Opening of border key to developing ties

Wednesday, September 19, 2007
Turkish Daily News
ISTANBUL - Turkish Daily News

Cooperation between the Arı Movement and the Armenian International Policy Research Group (AIPRG) showed signs of improvement at a meeting called “The opening of the Turkey-Armenia border” held in Istanbul's Bilgi University Dolapdere campus yesterday.

In an exclusive interview with the Turkish Daily News, AIPRG Representative Tigran Mkrtchyan said Turkey will gain prestige in the international arena if the borders between the countries are opened.

The Arı Movement is a think tank that aims at promoting Turkey's relations with the EU and the Western world in general. The AIPRG is an Armenian think tank dealing with issues relevant to Armenia and its Diaspora.

Mkrtchyan said that even though Armenia offered to open the borders without any prerequisites, Turkey brought forth the Karabagh and the “genocide” issues as prerequisites. He added that the attitude of the Armenian Diaspora should not affect the relationship between the two countries as Armenia is an independent state and its policy does not depend on the Diaspora. Mkrtchyan said the fact that there have been open and frank questions about the “genocide” during the meeting is a positive development.

The fact that there was no Armenian flag in the meeting, even though the Turkish flag and the Arı Movement flags were present, drew reaction from the AIPRG members. Mkrtchyan said the next meeting – in Ankara, on Sept. 20 – might be canceled if the Armenian flag is not present.

'Diaspora does not affect Armenian policy':

The international press was also drawn to the meeting that took place in Bilgi University's Dolapdere campus. Even though it was specified before the meeting that the AIPRG committee was not a political entity, questions asked were generally focused on the events of 1915, the Karabagh issue, and the attitude of the Armenian Diaspora.

“Even though our subject was economic relations, 90 percent of the questions were about ‘genocide' and the Karabagh issue. When the subject is Turkey and Armenia, the focus moves to these subjects regardless of the agenda," said Mkrtchyan. "But we are not politicians. We are here to discuss economic relations.”

Describing the fact that there were direct questions about the 1915 events during the meeting as a positive development, Mkrtchyan said that even the Turkish committees visiting Armenia generally abstained from expressions on the subject.

Noting that the Armenian economy has advanced in recent years, Mkrtchyan said Turkish and Armenian businessmen could trade freely if the borders between the two countries were opened. Regarding the Mezamor Nuclear Plant near the border with Turkey that has become a constant subject of debate, he said the plant was significant in Armenia's economical development, but that new alternatives could be considered if necessary.

Saying that Turkey-Armenia relations should not be affected because of the Armenian Diaspora's attitude, Mkrtchyan emphasized that independent Armenia had its own policy. He ended his speech by saying that he was optimistic about the opening of the borders between the two countries.

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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