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September 9, 2008
Turkish-Armenian relations warm in the aftermath of regional conflict

Stepan Grigoryan is chairman of the board of the Analytical Center for Globalization and Regional Cooperation in Yerevan. He writes about European affairs in his blog for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.

Could Turkey abandon preconditions for relations with Armenia?

Two months ago, during a summit in Astana on July 7, Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian extended an official invitation to his Turkish counterpart Abdullah Gul to travel to Yerevan so they could watch together as their national soccer teams played a match. Since then, public opinion in both countries has been divided as to what lay behind the invitation, whether Gul would accept it, and whether he should.

There are, of course, many factors hindering the normalization of relations between the two countries. Several external players, in particular Russia, have no interest in the opening of the Armenian-Turkish border, as this could lead to Armenia turning toward the West. Any positive developments in Armenia’s relations with Turkey would be painful for Azerbaijan. And within Turkey, the normalization of relations with Armenia is not viewed as an urgent priority.

Even before Sarkisian’s initiative, Turkey was trying to use its strategic partnership with Georgia and Azerbaijan to broaden its influence in the South Caucasus without regard for its lack of formal relations with Armenia. For that reason, it appeared that Armenia needed a normalization of relations more than Turkey did. It was also clear that Turkey required something more substantial than Sarkisian’s proposals to begin normalizing relations, a process that would have to include establishing a joint commission to evaluate historical issues, before it would agree to open the border.

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