By Tony Barber in Brussels
Armenia favours Turkey's bid to join the European Union because it might improve the prospects for overcoming the strained relations between Ankara and Yerevan, according to Serzh Sargsyan, Armenia's prime minister.
“I think it would be good for us if Turkey's desire to become a member of the European Union were satisfied,” Mr Sargsyan told the Financial Times. “Maybe the problems between us could find a solution within an EU framework.”
Turkey has no diplomatic relations with Armenia and closed its borders with its smaller, poorer neighbour in 1993 in solidarity with Azerbaijan, its regional partner. Armenia complains the closure has severely disrupted its foreign trade.
Turkey made its move in response to the capture by Armenian forces of Azerbaijani territory during a war over the predominantly ethnic Armenian enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh, which lies inside Azerbaijan.
Turkey and Armenia are also at odds over the mass killings of Armenians in 1915 in the Ottoman Empire, an event that Armenia regards as genocide, but which the modern Turkish state refuses to recognise as such.
Mr Sargsyan, 53, who is the early favourite to win Armenia's presidential elections on February 19, said he hoped Turkey would produce proposals for improving ties with Armenia after the vote.
Referring to Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey's prime minister, he said: “I don't think it's correct to say he's not committed to establishing relations with Armenia. We'll see what happens in the future.”
Mr Sargsyan, describing himself as optimistic that Armenia and Turkey would make progress, asked: “After all, what do we gain, what do the Turks gain, from the present situation? Even in the time of the cold war, when Armenia was part of the Soviet Union and Turkey was in Nato, we used to have a certain relationship with Turkey.
“A railway line was built through Armenia to Turkey. A high-voltage electricity line was built between the two countries. Why should my wish for relations not be logical now?”
Source: “The Financial Times”, London, 12 December 2007