YEREVAN — The Armenian foreign ministry is denying Turkish media reports which said that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has called Armenian PM Nikol Pashinian to request the release and return of Umut Ali Özmen, a 16-year-old illegal border crosser who was arrested and detained in Armenia.
“This information is false. No such phone call has taken place,” foreign ministry spokesperson Tigran Balayan said.
The Turkish Hurriyet newspaper reported that Erdogan called Pashinian over the phone to request the release of the 16 year old shepherd.
According to the same source, Turkish police have contacted Armenian police via Interpol to demand the release of Ali Özmen.
“Request to get into contact with the relevant authorities for the immediate release of the person, for whom there is no warrant issued, has been conveyed to the Interpol units in Armenia,” said Turkish Interpol after their communication with their Armenian counterparts on Sept. 12.
Umut Ali Özmen, who lives with his family in the Akyaka district of Turkey’s northeastern province of Kars, was captured by Armenian security forces on July 24 after crossing the border near Sis Hill while herding cattle, according to a CCTV footage of a Turkish border post.
“The kid was curious and I think he crossed the border after making a bet with his friends. He was caught and arrested,” said Kars Governor Rahmi Dogan.
“Armenians allege that he was taking photographs of some huts. Thus they may have taken the issue to another level. ‘Let’s deal with it via diplomatic channels,’ they told us,” he added.
Dogan also said they usually resolve such incidents by contacting their local Armenian counterparts.
In a meeting at the closed border gate on July 25, Armenian authorities told Turkish authorities that the Turkish boy would be taken to court.
Armenian authorities said they have been waiting for the official identity details of Umut Ali Özmen to be sure that he is not awaiting a trial in Turkey.