Mon, Oct 12, 2009 - Page 1 News List

Turkey demands Armenia leave disputed territory


Turkey’s prime minister said yesterday the opening of the country’s border with Armenia would be linked to progress on a disputed region, casting doubt on landmark deals signed between the two countries.

“We want all the borders to be opened at the same time,” Recep Tayyip Erdogan said at a meeting of officials from his party.

Erdogan said he would submit the pacts signed Saturday to parliament, but warned of potential problems.

“As long as Armenia has not withdrawn from Azerbaijani territory that it is occupying, Turkey cannot have a positive attitude on this subject,” he said, referring to the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region.

Turkey and Armenia signed deals on Saturday to normalize relations and open their shared border after decades of hostility over World War I-era massacres.

A long-running dispute over the Nagorno-Karabakh region — an Armenian-majority enclave that broke free from Turkish-backed Azerbaijan after a war — has been another stumbling block toward reconciliation.

Turkey closed its border with Armenia in 1993 to support Azerbaijan.

Turkey and Armenia signed Saturday’s landmark agreement after US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton helped the two sides clear a last-minute snag.

The Turkish and Armenian foreign ministers signed the accord in Zurich after a dispute over the final statements they would make. In the end, the signing took place about three hours later than scheduled and there were no spoken statements.

Clinton and mediators from Switzerland intervened to help broker a solution, US officials said on condition of anonymity, in keeping with US State Department regulations.

Better ties between Turkey, a regional heavyweight, and poor, landlocked Armenia have been a priority for US President Barack Obama, and Clinton had flown to Switzerland to witness the signing — not help close the deal.

Clinton told reporters traveling later on the plane with her to London that both sides had problems with the other’s prepared statement and that the Armenian foreign minister had to call his president several times.

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