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 September 26, 2003 

Border Talk: Media and officials fuel speculation of Turk-Armenian opening

A meeting by the Foreign Ministers sparked speculation..

"Talks about possible reopening of Armenian-Turkish border became more serious especially after the war in Iraq," says Suren Baghdasaryan, a Turkish expert at the Institute of Scientific Studies of the National Academy of Sciences of Armenia.

Baghdasaryan says that the United States' renewed interests in the Middle East compel the superpower to encourage open borders so that there may be better access and control.

Meetings this summer have led some to speculate that border discussions have intensified and that resolutions to disputes are imminent.

The Ministers of Foreign Affairs of Turkey and Armenia met in June in Madrid (though Minister Vardan Osakanian down-played any possibility of changes in border status) and also in June a meeting of the Armenian-Turkish Reconciliation Committee (June 5-6 in Istanbul) spoke about the seriousness of the issue of reopening the border.

At a news conference on September 16, Oskanian re-stated his position, saying: "Since the beginning I have always been approaching this issue very carefully and I have never had great expectations."

Media in both countries have fueled speculation of a resolution and are expectant of some related news following this week's United Nations General Assembly in which the Armenian and Turkish ministers were expected to meet again.

Reacting to statements earlier this year by Turkish Prime Minister Rejep Erdogan, the Turkish media was speculating that the Armenia-Turkey border would have been opened by the end of last month.

In Armenia, comments by Minister of Defense Serzh Sargsyan were also optimistic. According to him, the reopening of the border is a question that will be solved in a matter of months.

Minister of Transport and Communication Andranik Manukyan was optimistic too. He stated that he has confidential information that the Turkish side has constructed a new railway station next to the Armenian border. According to him, "Even today Armenia can already start accepting cargo."

However, according to "Mediamax", during the meeting that has recently been held between the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Azerbaijan Vilayat Guliev and Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Giul the latter told reporters that, "Turkey is not going to reopen the border with Armenia." Giul said that Sargsyan's optimism "doesn't correspond to reality".

However, at the end of August, Erdogan stated in Kars that Turkey is ready to make a step towards Armenia, however, "our adverse party must demonstrate understanding." His statement was directed at the genocide question, to which he added, "let historians deal with genocide."

One of the ruling coalitional members of Armenia, the Dashnak Party, is against reopening the borders on such conditions. Vice Speaker of the National Assembly Vahan Hovhannisyan, a Dashnak, said that opening under those conditions "will directly threaten our national interests".

According to Hovhannisyan, Turkey wins more if the roads are opened. "If Turkey thinks that in case of unblocking the roads they cede us something then why for the economic concession do they demand a political concession from us? Why do they demand from us to forget about genocide?"

Other coalitional parties, Hanrapetakan and Orinats Yerkir, are of completely different opinions. In particular, Aremnia's Minister of Trade and Economic Development, of the Hanrapetakan party, says that reopening of Armenian-Turkish borders "will induce economic activity in the region and will contribute to the development of competition. The presence of the alternative transport route can encourage the cheapening of the Georgian route and consequently it will encourage the increase of the import of some potentials."

The leader of Orinats Yerkir, Speaker of NA Artur Baghdasaryan has a global approach to the issue of border reopening. He is for establishing relations with the Turkish Parliament because "the European Union is for that as well". According to Baghdasaryan, cooperation between lawmakers will lead to the establishment of diplomatic relations between these two countries.

A press release from the Turkish-Azerbaijanian Media Research Center said that 11 of 15 questioned Turkish journalists were against reopening the border. Many of them explained their position with Armenia's demand on recognition the genocide.

And in America, Ross Vardanian of the Armenian Conference of the USA told media that if denying the genocide is a precondition for opening the border "it will never happen".

According to Agnes
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