YEREVAN (RFE/RL) — The Armenian government flatly denied on Monday a senior Turkish official’s claim that it has asked Ankara to send medical supplies needed for tackling the spread of coronavirus in Armenia.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s top adviser and spokesman, Ibrahim Kalin, claimed over the weekend that Yerevan requested medication. “Our president has approved this request and our Health Ministry is running the process,” he told the CNNTurk TV channel.
The Armenian Foreign Ministry insisted, however, that its officials “interacted” with relevant Turkish authorities with the sole aim of evacuating Armenian citizens from Turkey.
“The cooperation with the Turkish side occurred exclusively within this framework, and Armenia did not ask for any other assistance beyond this framework,” the spokeswoman for the ministry, Anna Naghdalyan, said in written comments.
Naghdaliyan said that buses carrying 73 Armenians who lived and worked in Istanbul arrived in Armenia via Georgia on Friday. She stressed that Armenia has also been trying to repatriate its citizens from other “countries severely hit by the COVID19 pandemic.”
Erdogan reportedly expressed readiness to assist in the repatriation of Armenian nationals when he spoke to the spiritual leader of Turkey’s ethnic Armenian community, Patriarch Sahak Mashalian, by phone on April 8. According to the Armenian Patriarchate of Istanbul, Erdogan also said that Ankara is ready to provide Yerevan with medicines used for treating coronavirus.
Commenting on that report, Naghdalyan said on April 9 that such an issue “is not on our agenda.”
The Turkish authorities have reported over 61,000 coronavirus cases and 1,296 deaths resulting from them as of Monday, compared with just over 1,000 cases and 14 deaths recorded in Armenia.
Armenia and Turkey do not have diplomatic relations. Successive Turkish governments have also kept the border between the two neighboring states closed because of the unresolved conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh.
Naghdalyan said on Monday that any potential Turkish-Armenian cooperation is “significantly limited” the Turkish blockade. “Unfortunately, some statements made by the Turkish side in the context of fighting against COVID-19 do not contribute to creating a depoliticized and humanitarian environment for cooperation,” added the Armenian official.