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Turkish President Congratulates Armenia On Independence Day

Turkish President Abdullah Gul (left) greets his Armenian counterpart Serzh Sarkisian in Bursa in October 2009.
Turkish President Abdullah Gul (left) greets his Armenian counterpart Serzh Sarkisian in Bursa in October 2009.
YEREVAN -- Turkish President Abdullah Gul has joined world leaders in congratulating Armenia on the 19th anniversary of its declaration of independence from the Soviet Union, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reports.

President Serzh Sarkisian's press office did not publicize the text of the letter he received from Gul nor report any of its details, and there was no word of it on Gul's website.

But a source in the Armenian presidential administration told RFE/RL that the "extensive" message expressed hope that the Turkish-Armenian normalization protocols signed a year ago would "serve as the basis" for future relations between the two neighboring states.

The protocols commit both sides to establishing diplomatic relations and opening their mutual border, which Turkey closed in 1993 in solidarity with Azerbaijan.

The source also quoted Gul as saying that the resolution of regional conflicts would allow the two historical foes to establish "good neighborly" ties, yet another indication that Ankara continues to link parliamentary ratification of the protocols with a resolution of the conflict over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region that is acceptable to Azerbaijan.

A Turkish Foreign Ministry official told RFE/RL on September 17 that Ankara would settle for a partial Armenian troop withdrawal from Azerbaijani territories surrounding Karabakh.

"We hope that there could be gestures and some movements on the Armenian side so that our parliament can go ahead and approve this important document," the official said.

Yerevan has repeatedly rejected such "preconditions." Armenian leaders argue that neither protocol makes any reference to the Armenian-Azerbaijani dispute.

The signing of the protocols in Zurich in October 2009 was the culmination of a dramatic Turkish-Armenian rapprochement that began with Gul's historic September 2008 visit to Yerevan. The Turkish president was invited by Sarkisian to attend the first-ever game between the two countries' national soccer teams.

The two leaders watched the return leg of the match in the Turkish city of Bursa a year later. "We are not writing history, we are making history," Gul declared during their talks held there.

The normalization process fizzled out in the following months as Ankara reverted to its contention over Karabakh and protested against the Armenian Constitutional Court's interpretation of the Western-backed agreements.

Sarkisian responded by accusing the Turks of reneging on the deal and freezing the ratification process in the Armenian parliament.