August 18, 2009
TURKISH FOREIGN MINISTRY RESPONDS TO ACNIS DIRECTOR RICHARD GIRAGOSIAN
In a statement released on August 14, the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs responded to ACNIS Director Richard Giragosian’s recent comments to journalists in Yerevan regarding the state of Turkish-Armenian diplomatic engagement. Citing Giragosian by name, the Turkish Foreign Ministry issued a clarification on recent Armenian media reports that quoted the ACNIS Director’s comments on Turkish-Russian relations.
According to an official statement posted on the website of the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs on August 14, Giragosian was quoted by the Armenian media as saying that a “secret agreement” between Turkey and Russia was signed granting Russia access through Turkish airspace to resupply the Russian base in the northern Armenian city of Gyumri. The report was also widely disseminated, as the Azerbaijani “Trend” news agency printed a statement on August 15 released by the Turkish Embassy in Baku that refuted the “information about arms shipments to the Russian military base in Armenia via Turkish airspace.” The Turkish Embassy in Baku released an official statement to the Azerbaijani media claiming that “such information is a step towards breaking friendship and fraternity of Turkey and Azerbaijan.”
Although the Armenian media report was partially inaccurate, ACNIS Director Giragosian did reveal that “Turkish and Russian officials are currently negotiating a bilateral accord that would provide the Russian military access to the Gyumri base through Turkish airspace and territory in the event of an agreement to open the closed Turkish-Armenian border.”
Most interestingly, Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Burak Özügergin (pictured below) criticized Giragosian’s comments in an interview with the Turkish “Hurriyet” daily newspaper, stating that “it’s an obvious provocation aimed at breaking friendly relations between Turkey and Azerbaijan.”
Turkish Foreign Affairs
Spokesman Burak Özügergin
As the official Turkish spokesman did not deny the essence of Giragosian’s comments, his comments sparked heated calls by leading Turkish opposition newspapers demanding that Turkey should immediately break off negotiations with Russia. The “Milliyet” daily newspaper, for example, argued that “Russian arms supplied to Armenia will be used against Azerbaijan,” adding that “assisting (the) Russian military base is out of the question.”
In subsequent comments on this issue, ACNIS Director Richard Giragosian noted that “the fact that the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs felt compelled to officially respond to my comments reported in the Armenian media only reveals the lack of trust inherent in Turkish-Russian relations and further demonstrates the weakness of Turkish foreign policy regarding its engagement of Armenia.” He also said that the incident “questions the sincerity of Turkey’s earlier promises to forge new relations with Armenia, including a commitment to end its blockade of Armenia and to address the legacy of the Armenian genocide.” Giragosian explained that “the burden is now on Turkey, as the international community is now becoming increasingly impatient with what appears to be Turkey’s indecisiveness and lack of good will toward Armenia.”
Giragosian also stressed that “even if Turkey decides to reopen the border with Armenia and to extend diplomatic relations with Armenia, such moves should not be misinterpreted as any kind of gift or reward to Armenia, as such minimal steps merely represent the basic requirements for civilized countries.” He concluded by reiterating the fact that “although there is still at least some degree of optimism, it is Turkey that is in danger of missing a strategic opportunity to move forward with Armenia.”
The Armenian Center for National and International Studies (ACNIS) is a leading independent strategic research center located in Yerevan, Armenia. As an independent, objective institution committed to conducting professional policy research and analysis, ACNIS strives to raise the level of public debate and seeks to broaden public engagement in the public policy process, as well as fostering greater and more inclusive public knowledge. Founded in 1994, ACNIS is the institutional initiative of Raffi K. Hovannisian, Armenia’s first Minister of Foreign Affairs. Over the past fifteen years, ACNIS has acquired a prominent reputation as a primary source of professional independent research and analysis covering a wide range of national and international policy issues.
For further information on the Center call (37410) 52-87-80 or 27-48-18; fax (37410) 52-48-46; email firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com; or visit www.acnis.am.