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Turkey 19 Sept allowed one-off religious service for first time in nearly a century at historic Armenian church on island in Lake Van, eastern Turkey. Event marred by Armenian religious leaders’ boycott over Turkish failure to place cross on church’s dome. Turkish President Gül 21 Sept reportedly congratulated Armenia on 19th anniversary of declaration of independence in letter expressing hope for Turkish-Armenian normalisation.
Turkish FM Davutoğlu 26 Aug confirmed country’s participation in NATO’s disaster relief exercise to be held in Armenia 11-17 Sept; denied reports of possible temporary border opening during drills.
Reports emerged mid-month Turkey will open border with Armenia for NATO disaster relief exercise in Sept; but following failure of Armenia-Azerbaijan talks on Nagorno-Karabakh (N-K) settlement on sidelines of OSCE ministerial meeting, Turkish FM Davutoğlu 17 July ruled out possibility for time being. Armenian President Sarkisian 21 July said Turkey’s turn to take next step to normalise ties. In 4 July visits to Yerevan and Baku U.S. Sec State Clinton pressed for resolution of stalled N-K peace process, called on Turkey to move forward with normalisation of ties with Armenia.
In visit to Washington D.C., lawmakers from Turkey’s ruling AK party 18 June continued to stress link between Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and Turkey-Armenia normalisation. Armenian FM mid-month underlined Armenian approach fully aligned with international position on ratification of Oct 2009 rapprochement protocols without preconditions and within reasonable timeframe.
Continued stalemate over normalisation of relations. In 17 May visit to Baku Turkish PM Erdogan reiterated Turkey will not sign rapprochement protocols with Armenia before resolution of Nagorno-Karabakh (N-K) conflict. Armenian delegation at Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) resisted efforts by current PACE President and Turkish politician Mevlut Cavusoglu to restart talks on N-K settlement in PACE subcommittee before mission of committee is clarified. Cavusoglu 13 May made first trip to Armenia; stirred controversy by refusing to visit genocide memorial, traditional site for visiting foreign delegates.
Standoff over Oct 2009 rapprochement protocols between countries worsened. Armenia 22 Apr suspended ratification procedure of protocols. Turkish PM Erdogan over month reiterated ratification by Turkey contingent on Armenia-Azerbaijan agreement on Nagorno-Karabakh (N-K). Turkish FM Davutoglu 19 Apr said border to remain closed until protocols are ratified. Armenian President Sarkisian early month opposed establishment of historical sub-commission envisioned by protocols before Turkey recognises 1915 massacres of Armenians as genocide. Continued stalemate followed 12 Apr meeting between Erdogan and Sarkisian on sidelines of nuclear security summit in Washington, DC; U.S. President Obama talks with Sarkisian 12 Apr, Erdogan 13 Apr. Sarkisian 20 Apr discussed Armenian-Turkish normalisation and N-K in meeting with Russian President Medvedev.
U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee 4 March, Swedish Parliament 11 March narrowly passed non-binding resolutions recognising 1915 Ottoman killings of Armenians as genocide. Turkey responded by recalling ambassadors for consultations; Turkish PM Erdogan 16 March threatened to expel illegal Armenian workers from Turkey. Armenian President Sarkisian 23 March warned Turkish procrastination over ratification of Oct 2009 rapprochement protocolswouldleadtootherstatesadoptingsimilarresolutions. Both sides toughened positions on rapprochement over month. Armenian deputy FM 12 March maintained historical sub-commission envisioned by protocols would discuss only “aftermath” of genocide, demand perceived by Turkey as undermining original mandate of commission. Erdogan 24 March stated Turkey will open border with Armenia only once it withdraws from Nagorno-Karabakh.
Armenian President Sarkisian 12 Feb submitted Oct 2009 rapprochement protocols with Turkey to parliament, demanding Turkish parliamentary approval before Armenia ratifies. Armenian parliament 25 Feb passed amendments to law on international treaties, facilitating withdrawal from protocols in event of delays in Turkey’s ratification. Turkish President Gül 11 Feb reaffirmed commitment to protocols but head of parliamentary Foreign Affairs Commission 23 Feb said ratification “very difficult”, repeated demands to Armenia for border recognition and withdrawal from Azerbaijani territory. Turkey early month denounced U.S. House Foreign Relations Committee plans to hold 4 March vote on resolution, introduced 1 year ago, urging President Obama to recognize Ottoman killings of Armenians as genocide. U.S. Deputy Sec State Steinberg 4 Feb met with President Sarkisian, 5 Feb with Turkish FM Davutoglu and Azerbaijani President Aliyev.
Prospects for rapprochement weakened as countries exchanged accusations, entrenched positions over month. Armenian Constitutional Court 12 Jan decided Oct protocols with Turkey in compliance with national constitution, but text of decision also noted protocols cannot be interpreted in ways that contradict 1991 Declaration of Independence and preamble to Constitution, which proclaim Armenian genocide recognition govt priority and use term “Western Armenia” for eastern parts of Turkey. Turkish FM 18 Jan rejected court ruling, claiming it will “impair” protocols; prompted Armenian retort that Turkish obstructionism could derail reconciliation efforts. In 12-13 Jan Moscow visit, Turkish PM Erdogan discussed rapprochement with Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh settlement. Turkey unable to secure international support on linkage between issues: U.S. Asst Sec State Gordon 22 Jan praised Armenian court decision as positive step forward; Russian PM Putin 13 Jan rejected attempts at linkage as counterproductive.
At Athens OSCE Ministerial Council 1-2 Dec, Turkey reaffirmed stance on linkage between opening of border with Armenia and latter’s concessions to Azerbaijan on Nagorno-Karabakh; link reiterated by Turkish PM Erdogan 7 Dec, FM Davutoglu 26 Dec. Armenian officials threatened to annul Oct rapprochement protocols if Turkish parliament fails to ratify them before April; head of Armenian parliament 24 Dec said will not ratify protocols before Turkey does.
Yerevan 2 Nov said expects Ankara to ratify 10 Oct landmark protocols normalizing relations first,within “reasonable timeframe”. Armenian President Sarkisian 2 Nov said will not stop seeking recognition of Ottomanera mass killings of Armenians as genocide, will not make additional concessions to Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Armenian govt reiterated that Turkey rapprochement and N-K conflict resolution not linked; Turkish FM 17 Nov said will take no further steps on protocols without N-K progress. Yerevan 20 Nov declared no further negotiations with Turkey until ratification completed by parliaments.
Turkish, Armenian FMs 10 Oct signed 2 landmark protocols to restore diplomatic ties, open borders and set up history sub-commission, in Zurich ceremony attended by U.S. Sec State Clinton, Russian, French, Swiss FMs, EU foreign policy chief Solana. Protocols need ratification by both parliaments; presented to Turkish parliament 21 Oct. Turkey continuing to link ratification with progress on resolving Nagorno-Karabakh dispute. Armenian President Sarkisian 14 Oct attended Armenia-Turkey World Cup soccer match in Turkey with President Gül; ban on 3rd country flags in stadium strained Turkey’s relations with Azerbaijan, triggering note of protest from Baku, reciprocated by Turkey. Azerbaijani President Aliyev 16 Oct threatened to stop selling Turkey natural gas at low prices, seek alternative gas export routes to Europe. Tensions alleviated slightly with late month Baku visit by Turkish delegation.
Following break-through 31 Aug agreement on protocols to normalise relations, draft protocols to be signed by FMs in Switzerland 10 Oct before going to national parliaments for ratification. Turkish PM Erdogan 18 Sept said Turkey will not reopen border with Armenia as long as Nagorno-Karabakh (N-K) dispute unresolved; Yerevan accused Erdogan of acting against “letter, spirit and aims” of agreement, reiterated Armenia rules out linkage between rapprochement with Turkey and N-K conflict.
Turkey, Armenia and mediator Switzerland 31 Aug announced breakthrough on protocols to establish diplomatic relations, normalise ties. Protocols to be submitted to national parliaments in 6 weeks’ time; expected to lead to opening of the Turkey-Armenia border closed since 1993 due to Nagorno-Karabakh war, and a bilateral sub-commission to discuss Ottoman-era massacres of Armenians in 1915.
Optimism following break-through 22 Apr roadmap to normalise Armenia/Turkey relations faded after Turkish PM Erdogan 13 May in Baku said mutual border to remain closed until Armenia withdraws from Nagorno Karabakh (NK). Armenian FM Nalbandian 16 May restated relations with Turkey should not be dependent on resolution of NK conflict. First Armenian president and Armenian National Congress (HAK) Yerevan mayoral candidate Ter-Petrossian, criticising Apr roadmap agreement, said Turkey used promise of normalizing relations to scuttle U.S. genocide recognition.
Progress on Armenia-Turkey rapprochement during month, despite Armenia’s Nagorno- Karabakh conflict with Turkey ally Azerbaijan. Swiss-mediated talks culminated in 22 Apr announcement of “roadmap” for normalizing relations, reportedly involving Armenian recognition of 1921 border, opening of border, historical sub- commission. Implementation on hold, possibly in expectation of progress on NK talks.
Referendum on package of constitutional amendments held 27 November; central election commission stated more than 93% approval. Official turnout figure of 65% challenged by opposition who, claiming 16.3% turnout, staged protests; had previously called for boycott. Only international observation came from 14 Council of Europe observers who said vote marred by “serious abuses” putting “credibility” of result in doubt.
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