By Hrach Melkumian
Turkey’s newly installed government led by a party with Islamist roots is unlikely to establish diplomatic relations and reopen the border with Armenia without preconditions, a senior Istanbul-based Armenian diplomat said on Saturday.
Arsen Avagian, who represents Armenia at the Istanbul headquarters of the Black See Economic Cooperation (BSEC) organization, said he expects that official Ankara will continue to seek concessions on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict in return for agreeing to normalize relations with Yerevan.
“In my view, it will be very difficult for the Justice and Development Party (AKP) to avoid using the issue of opening the border to put pressure on Armenia,” he told RFE/RL in Yerevan. “Unfortunately, the dominant mood in Turkey remains in support of obtaining concessions from Armenia in return for improved relations. Those concessions have mainly to do with Karabakh.”
Avagian spoke as a senior AKP member, Abdullah Gul, was named Turkey’s new prime minister. Gul, 52, is to form Turkey’s first single-party government in 15 years. He is known as a strong advocate of his country’s membership in the European Union and close ties with the United States.
Another AKP leader, Abdulatif Siner, told RFE/RL earlier this week that the winner of the November 3 Turkish general elections will not soften Turkish policy on Armenia and will continue to lend full support to Azerbaijan. He said Ankara will not risk “jeopardizing relations” with its Turkic-speaking Caucasian ally.
According to Avagian, nor will the AKP-led government reconsider the Turkish denial of the 1915 Armenian Genocide — an issue which he said is more important for the Turks than Karabakh. He claimed that the Turks are primarily motivated by fear of possible Armenian demands for compensation in the event of their recognition of the genocide.