Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 219

Probably reflecting Armenia’s unsettled internal situation, some of Kocharian’s and Foreign Minister Vardan Oskanian’s summit-related remarks seemed written by different hands with different agendas. The remarks on Armenian-Turkish relations, for example, included elements of both the olive branch and the genocide accusations. A landmark meeting took place between Turkish President Suleyman Demirel and Kocharian. Expressing Armenia’s keen interest in opening transport and trade links with Turkey, Kocharian called for decoupling the issue of Turkish-Armenian relations from the resolution of the Karabakh conflict. Demirel held out the prospect of diplomatic relations and active economic cooperation with Armenia, but only after significant progress will have been made toward settling the Karabakh conflict. Turkey thus reaffirmed the linkage between the two issues. Their decoupling would not only facilitate Armenia’s economic recovery but weaken Azerbaijan’s negotiating position regarding Karabakh. Baku is even more insistent than Ankara on maintaining the linkage between Armenian-Azerbaijani and Turkish-Armenian relations.

It was this situation which led Kocharian to admit that Armenia needs peace with Azerbaijan and detente with Turkey, if it is to recover economically and emerge from near-isolation. Kocharian’s new position is that of his overthrown predecessor, Levon Ter-Petrosian, who had used that argument in urging a compromise with Azerbaijan and detente with Turkey. In 1998, Kocharian and then-defense minister Vazgen Sarkisian ousted Ter-Petrosian for that reason. Kocharian maintained at the time that Armenia’s ties with Iran, assistance from the Armenian diaspora and the country’s internal resources would make economic recovery possible. After eighteen months in the presidential seat, however, Kocharian has come round to the view of his predecessor, and is now being pressured by the Defense Ministry, where the political heirs of the recently slain strongman Vazgen Sarkisian hold sway.

In a possible, if modest harbinger of detente, the Turkish government welcomed a twenty-two-strong Armenian rescue team to the area of the latest earthquake in northwestern Turkey. The government in Ankara had turned down Armenia’s offer to send a rescue team after the preceding earthquake, but the nationalist minister responsible for that affront has since been dropped from the Turkish government (Noyan-Tapan, Armenpress, Snark, Azg, November 18-22; see the Monitor, see the Monitor, November 19).