ANKARA, Turkey (AP) – Turkey’s foreign minister said Monday he is seeking a dialogue with the new government installed in Armenia to try to normalize ties between two neighbors who have no diplomatic relations.
Ali Babacan told reporters he had written to his Armenian counterpart saying that Turkey “is open to dialogue with the aim of normalizing Turkish-Armenian ties in the new era.”
A historical dispute has prevented the two nations from having diplomatic relations.
Armenia says Turks killed up to 1.5 million Armenians around the time of World War I, toward the end of the Ottoman Empire, in what should be labeled genocide. Turkey says the killings occurred at a time of civil conflict and that the casualty figures are inflated.
Turkey also closed its border with Armenia in 1993 during a war between Armenia and Azerbaijan, a Muslim ally of Ankara. The move hurt the economy of tiny, landlocked Armenia.
“Admittedly we have problems, some of which date back 100 years,” Babacan said, when he was asked about Turkey-Armenia relations during a news conference with the visiting Austrian Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik. “But the only way of overcoming these problems is through dialogue. Our doors are open to dialogue in this new period,” Babacan said.
As the result of Armenia’s February election, Serge Sarkisian, a former prime minister, was sworn earlier this month as the country’s third president since the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Supporters of Sarkisian’s challenger, former President Levon Ter-Petrosian, and other opposition activists staged mass protests in the capital, Yerevan, alleging fraud.
Clashes later broke out with police, prompting authorities to declare a 20-day state of emergency, which was lifted last month.