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Turks Asked To Leave Armenia Over Border Crossing Claim

Powerful Turkey party leaders Rudi Meral, Tuna Beklevic, and Baybars Orsek (left to right) in Yerevan on a previous visit
Powerful Turkey party leaders Rudi Meral, Tuna Beklevic, and Baybars Orsek (left to right) in Yerevan on a previous visit
YEREVAN -- Two Turkish party leaders have been asked to leave Armenia after being questioned by National Security Service officials about their claims to have crossed the closed Armenian-Turkish border earlier this month, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reports.

Tuna Beklevic, the leader of the Turkish Guclu Turkiye (Powerful Turkey) party, and his deputy Baybars Orsek were summoned by the National Security Service shortly after they claimed at a press conference in Yerevan earlier today that they and several other Turkish politicians crossed the border into Armenia on October 10.

They called the crossing a protest against the ongoing closure of the border one year after the signing of Turkish-Armenian protocols on establishing "good-neighborly relations."

Beklevic described at the press conference today how he and his colleagues crossed the Akhurian River that marks the border.

"We crossed via a place located about 150 meters to the north of a bridge near the ruins of Ani where the river narrows and becomes shallow," Beklevic said. "There were candy papers on both sides of the river, which means that the path has been in use."

Two Turkish newspapers, "Today's Zaman" and "Cihan," reported Beklevic's initial revelation on October 11.

But the Russian border troops that guard the Armenian-Turkish border denied the Turkish media reports and said no violations of the border had occurred during the period in question.

Both men entered Armenia legally on their current trip.

The National Security Service told RFE/RL's Armenian Service later today that neither man could substantiate his claims. It said the Turks were warned that their behavior was "unacceptable" and "were asked to leave the country immediately."

Earlier, the Armenian Foreign Ministry turned down a request by Beklevic and Orsek for a meeting.

In a statement on October 28, the head of the ministry’s department for neighboring countries, Karen Mirzoyan, advised that "Turkish political groups advocating Armenian-Turkish normalization should turn to the Turkish authorities," who, he said, "by artificially raising obstacles, did not agree to the ratification and implementation of the signed protocols."

"That answer broke our hearts," Beklevic told the media. "All we wanted from the Armenian Foreign Ministry was a cup of coffee or tea share with them our approaches and hear their views."