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Armenia presses on Turkey to vote peace deal first

11 February 2010 [09:43] - TODAY.AZ
Accords aimed at normalise relations between Turkey and Armenia must be voted on by the Turkish parliament before Armenia's parliament will approve them, Armenia's president said on Wednesday.

Serzh Sarksyan also warned that Armenia could break off the effort to normalise relations if Turkey dragged its feet.

Turkey and Armenia agreed last year to establish diplomatic ties and open their common border within two months of parliamentary approval.

The accords were signed with the endorsement of the United States, European Union and Russia, but the Armenian and Turkish governments have since accused each other of trying to re-write the texts.

Sarksyan said he would tell his staff on Wednesday to submit the accords to the Armenian parliament, but that Turkey's parliament would have to be first to ratify them.

"The parliament of Armenia will vote on the protocols if the Turkish parliament goes ahead with that," he said, answering questions at the Chatham House thinktank in London.

"Otherwise we can find ourselves in a situation where the Armenian parliament ratifies and the Turkish parliament fails to," he said, speaking through an interpreter.

Sarksyan said he could guarantee a positive vote in the Armenian parliament "if the Turkish side does it in a reasonable time frame and without pre-conditions".

But he said Turkish officials had said their parliament was independent and its decisions unpredictable.

The deal would bring big economic gains to poor, landlocked Armenia. Turkey would burnish its credentials as a potential EU entry state and boost its clout in the South Caucasus, a region criss-crossed by pipelines carrying oil and gas to the West.

Ties with Azerbaijan

 Sarksyan said Armenia was committed to rapprochement with Turkey. "We have agreed to move forward without any pre-conditions, not making our relations contingent upon Turkey's recognition of the Armenian genocide," Sarksyan said.

Turkey has also warned that the peace process could fail unless it was carried out properly.

It has demanded that ethnic Armenian forces pull back from the frontlines of Azerbaijan's mountain region of Nagorno- Karabakh as a condition for ratifying the peace deal.

The Turkish condition is aimed at placating close Muslim ally Azerbaijan, an oil and gas exporter which lost control over Nagorno-Karabakh when ethnic Armenians backed by Christian Armenia attacked Azeris and captured Karabakh as the Soviet Union collapsed. Ankara closed the border with Armenia in 1993 in solidarity with Azerbaijan.

Sarksyan said he would invite Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev if a ceremony was held to mark the opening of the Armenian-Turkish border.

Sarksyan accused Azerbaijan of stockpiling weapons and said that, while Armenia despised war, "we realise that we must be ready for war in case others wish to fight."

/World Bulletin/

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