CHISINAU, MOLDOVA — President Serzh Sarkisian has urged the European Union to press Turkey to normalize relations with Armenia, saying that the closed border between the two neighboring states will hamper the implementation of Yerevan’s forthcoming Association Agreement with the EU.

“Within the framework of the [EU’s] Eastern Partnership, Armenia attaches great importance to ending the practice of closed borders,” Sarkisian said during the summit of the European People’s Party (EPP) which took place in the Moldovan capital of Chisinau on July 11. It was attended by the presidents of Armenia, Georgia and Moldova, as well as the chairman of the EPP.

“The agreement on the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area, which is currently being negotiated with the European Union (DCFTA), cannot work in full after coming into force, if the Armenian-Turkish border remains closed. We think that the European Union should seriously address the issue of closed borders because their existence cannot make trade with the EU’s customs union effective,” he said.

The Armenian leader referred to the customs union of the EU member states and Turkey that came into effect in 1996, abolishing virtually all trade barriers. The DCFTA is a similar arrangement that will be a key element of the Armenia-EU Association Agreement.

Within the context of regional challenges Sarkisian also spoke about the inadmissibility of Azerbaijan’s policy of “transforming energy cooperation into energy dictation”.

“In our opinion, the Eastern Partnership program by its essence is aimed at cooperation, but is not an initiative to create contradictions; it is not directed against any state or group of states. This partnership is aimed at ultimately overcoming the dividing lines,” concluded Sarkisian.

The EU has long been advocating an unconditional normalization of Turkish-Armenian relations. Accordingly, it strongly backed normalization protocols signed by Ankara and Yerevan in 2009. The Turkish government makes their parliamentary ratification conditional on a resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict acceptable to Azerbaijan. The Armenian side rejects this precondition.

EU leaders have likewise called for an unconditional implementation of the protocols. But they do not seem to have raised the matter in ongoing talks on Turkey’s membership of the EU.

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