İstanbul Kültür University

Armenian journalist says Turkey-Armenia rapprochement postponed-Yonca Poyraz Doğan-Todays Zaman

Turkish and Armenian officials have been working hard to devise a formula to solve the problems between their countries, but the rapprochement has not only reached deadlock, it has been postponed, one observer pointed out.

Boris Navasardyan, the Yerevan Press Club president, said one important factor making a negative contribution to the process from the Armenian side was them not taking decisive action.

"Armenia is traditionally an inert country. It never takes decisive steps. That's true for Turkey-Armenia relations," he said, adding that the limited political resources of Armenia are not utilized well, so experts who could contribute to the process are isolated.

"They are in a position to criticize but are never involved in the process," he said yesterday at a roundtable meeting organized by the Global Political Trends Center on "Turkey-Armenia Dialogue: New Prospects."

Making things even more difficult could be the approaching municipal elections on May 31 in Yerevan as one of the critics of the Armenian government is running for a mayoral post.

"It's a very important political event because Yerevan is half of Armenia. Politics, economy and citizens' activities all occur in Yerevan. Because we have had problematic presidential elections, the opposition claims that this is not an election for the mayor and city council of Yerevan but a second round of presidential elections," Navasardyan said.

In mid-March, Levon Ter-Petrossian, the first president of Armenia, was selected to head the ticket of the Armenian National Congress (HAK) in the upcoming elections.

Yerevan has until now been governed by officials appointed by the president of the republic. Under one of the amendments to Armenia's constitution enacted in November 2005, Yerevan mayors are chosen by a municipal council elected by voters.

"After the [Organization of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation] BSEC meeting of foreign ministers in Yerevan, Armenian-Turkish relations have been forgotten. Everyone is focused on elections in Yerevan. We have to admit that the Armenian-Turkish rapprochement will be postponed for some time," he said. "Now the Armenian government will wait and focus on internal issues."

Even though Turkish and Armenian officials have been working hard to devise a formula between their countries, they seem to have reached a deadlock as Azerbaijan, an ethnic and strategic ally of Turkey, has grown uneasy about the prospects of rapprochement between Ankara and Yerevan, fearing it will lose key leverage in the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute if Turkey opens its border and resumes diplomatic ties. Turkey closed its border and severed diplomatic ties with Armenia in 1993 in protest over the Armenian occupation of a chunk of Azerbaijani territory during a war over Nagorno-Karabakh.

When it comes to how the Nagorno-Karabakh issue affects Turkey-Armenia relations, Navasardyan said both Armenia and Azerbaijan are insisting on their full demands, and Turkey and Armenia are not showing any willingness to compromise.

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