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Armenia Chides Turkish Leader Over 'Friendship' Statue Row

The unfinished statue of "Peace and Brotherhood" in Kars (April 2010 photo)

The unfinished statue of "Peace and Brotherhood" in Kars (April 2010 photo)

YEREVAN -- Armenia has criticized Turkey's government for suggesting that a giant monument meant to promote reconciliation between the two estranged nations should be dismantled, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reports.

The 30-meter unfinished concrete statue, located in the northeastern Turkish city of Kars just 50 kilometers from the Armenian border, depicts two figures emerging from one human shape and symbolizing the pain of being divided.

Visiting Kars on January 9, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan described the monument as a "monstrosity" that overshadows a nearby Islamic shrine. He ordered the Kars mayor -- a member of his ruling Justice and Development Party -- to replace it with a park. The statement prompted strong criticism from some opponents of his government.

Commenting on Erdogan's statements, Armenian Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian said that "instead of putting new building blocks on the foundation for normalizing bilateral relations [between Ankara and Yerevan], this kind of statement and actions could only cause damage."

"The international community has not forgotten the most recent statements of this kind, and a new one is being added to them. One can only express regrets," Nalbandian told journalists.

Nalbandian also repeated the official Armenian policy that the onus is on Turkey to kick-start a rapprochement between the two countries that brought them closer to establishing diplomatic relations and reopening their border more than a year ago. He said Ankara has "reverted to the language of preconditions."

Nalbandian was referring to the Erdogan government's refusal to ratify the Turkish-Armenian normalization protocols signed in October 2009 before there is a resolution of the conflict over the breakaway Azerbaijani region of Nagorno-Karabakh.