ANKARA – As the much-expected move on normalizing bilateral ties came late Wednesday through a joint statement from the Turkish and Armenian foreign ministries, now all eyes are turned on the settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute between Armenia and Azerbaijan.
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As stated many times by top Turkish officials, normalizing relations and opening the border with Armenia is expected to happen just after a breakthrough on the Nagorno-Karabakh front.
Thus, a meeting by the leaders of Azerbaijan and Armenia next month in Switzerland is considered an important one. Ilham Aliyev of Azerbaijan and Serge Sarkisian of Armenia will come together May 7 in Switzerland to continue exerting efforts to settle the dispute.
According to diplomats, the parties are very close to a solution, and if they could clear the few remaining obstacles on the withdrawal of Armenian troops from the region, then it would be highly possible to declare the settlement in June.
This will also free Turkey’s hands for creating the road map and thus announcing the establishment of diplomatic ties in 2009. As Sarkisian put it earlier, it will perhaps possible for both countries to proceed before Oct. 7, the day when Turkish and Armenian national football teams will play to qualify for the 2010 World Cup.
Two important aspects of the joint statement are the agreed framework and road map, considered key points of the process that will determine the future ties between Turkey and Armenia.
With regard to the framework, it was already reported that the two countries have agreed to establish a number of commissions.
Each commission will be tasked with a different aspect of building ties. For example, the joint history commission will work on the 1915 events; the joint trade and economy commission will draft a plan to boost economic ties; the joint border commission will talk about the details and technicalities of opening the border; and another joint commission will outline the procedures of establishing diplomatic relations between the two countries.
But emphasizing that the implementation process of this framework will be decided according to a road map, of which the details are not yet known, proves that “there is still a road to accomplish.”
Apparently, one of the most important stops on the road map is Nagorno-Karabakh, a regional conflict that has continued between Armenia and Azerbaijan since the early 1990s. Without a direct reference to the dispute, mentioning a road map touches on it in a way that eases the concerns of Baku, Turkey’s traditional ally.