YEREVAN -- Armenia has criticized Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan for saying again that the normalization of Turkish-Armenian relations is conditional on an acceptable resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict with Azerbaijan, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reports.
Erdogan told Turkish media editors on September 18 that "Turkey's position has not changed. We are repeating that as long as Azerbaijan's occupied territories are not returned, the border with Armenia will not be opened," the Turkish daily "Milliyet" reported.
In a quick response, Armenian Foreign Minister Eduard Nalbandian released a written statement later the same day saying that Erdogan's comments go against "the letter, spirit, and aims" of the draft Turkish-Armenian protocols made public on August 31.
Nalbandian said, "The Turkish side is aware and, we are sure, realizes that we rule out any linkage between the normalization of Turkish-Armenian relations and steps to resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. By attempting to link those two processes, one risks botching both of them."
The protocols, which call for the reestablishment of diplomatic relations between the two states and the reopening of the border, make no reference to the Karabakh conflict.
Nalbandian did not specify whether Erdogan's comments would affect President Serzh Sarkisian's plans to visit Turkey for the October 14 World Cup qualifying soccer game between Armenia and Turkey in Istanbul.