BAKU: Aliyev says Turkey will withstand pressures

Baku Sun, Azerbaijan
March 26 2004

Aliyev says Turkey will withstand pressures

Zulfugar Agayev (Staff Writer)

President Ilham Aliyev
stated that the opening
of Turkish/Armenian borders
would impede finding
a peaceful solution
of the Karabakh conflict.
(Photo Courtesy of Azertac)

BAKU – President Ilham Aliyev called on the European Union (EU) and
`influential nations’ late Wednesday not to press upon Turkey to open
its borders with Armenia, warning that it would be impossible to find
a peaceful solution to the Nagorno (Daghlig)-Karabakh conflict if the
borders were opened.

`If Turkey were to open its doors to Armenia, Azerbaijan would lose
an important lever in finding a solution to the conflict,’ the
president told reporters at Heydar Aliyev International Airport after
returning from Uzbekistan. `It also would make it impossible to
continue the peace talks and would even bring the talks to an end.’
However, President Aliyev said he had received assurances from both
the Turkish Prime Minster Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Foreign Minister
Abdullah Gul that the Turkish-Armenian borders could be opened only
after Armenia withdraws from Azerbaijan’s occupied territories.

`Turkey is a great and powerful nation and I am sure that Turkey will
withstand the pressures,’ Aliyev stressed. `The Turkish-Azerbaijani
brotherhood is above everything.’

Turkey has no diplomatic relationship with Yerevan and has been
keeping its borders closed with Armenia since the latter gained
independence after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

In return for establishing diplomatic relations and opening the
borders, Turkey demands Armenia give up propagating the alleged
genocide of Armenians under the Ottoman Turkey in early 20th century,
stop territorial claims against Ankara and withdraw from Azerbaijan’s
occupied territories.

But some Azerbaijanis felt disappointment when the Turkish Prime
Minister Erdogan stated, while on an official visit to the United
States late January, that his government might decide to open borders
`if the friendly initiatives of Turkey were reciprocated.’

Erdogan said that the Turkish citizens living in neighboring regions
with Armenia want to see the borders opened so that they could easily
trade with the former Soviet republic.

In response, several members of the Azerbaijani Diaspora in the U.S.
sent a protest letter to Erdogan early February, expressing concern
over his statement.

The letter, which was printed in Baku’s Azerbaijani-language daily
525th newspaper on 13 February, alleged that Erdogan was forced by
the U.S. government and also by the strong Armenian Diaspora to make
a concession on the border issue.

The letter said Turkey’s opening of the borders with Armenia while
the latter continues to occupy Azerbaijan’s territories would affect
the friendly relationship between Baku and Ankara.

However, Ahmed Unal Cevikoz, Turkish ambassador to Baku, told the
Baku Sun that Erdogan’s statement was probably `misunderstood’ by the

Chevikoz said that his country is still sticking to all of its three
stipulations, including the one that demands the Armenian army
withdraw from Azerbaijan’s territories that were occupied in the
1991-94 war.

The Azerbaijani Minister of Foreign Affairs, Vilayet Guliyev also
said that `the fraternal country’s’ position on the opening of the
borders has remained unchanged.

But Altay Goyushov, a Baku-based expert on Turkish studies, believes
that Erdogan government’s retreat from Turkey’s traditional regional
policy positions is obvious.

`This retreat policy is obvious in the stands that Ankara is now
holding on the issues of Cyprus, the Iraqi Turkmans and also on
Karabakh,’ Goyushov said.

He explained that by going to concessions, Erdogan hopes to avoid
obstacles preventing his country from joining the EU.

`But this meaningless retreat stems from the inexperienced nature of
Erdogan’s government,’ Goyushov contended.

Erdogan replied to similar accusations against his Justice and
Development Party (AKP) government while still in Washington.
According to Turkish news reports, the prime minister stated that
accusations regarding the AKP government trying to `give away Cyprus
and get over with it’ are dishonorable.

But at the same time, Erdogan admitted to Turkish journalists that
the words `Kerkuk’ or `Turkmens’ were not mentioned during his White
House meeting with President Bush.

Ugur Akinci, a Turkish analyst, also believes that Erdogan’s
government has a positive approach to opening the borders with
Armenia even though this may create friction in the future with
Azerbaijan, one of Turkey`s closest allies.

According to Akinci, who accompanied Erdogan in his visit to the
United States, the dominant view in AKP is to open the borders to
encourage trade between Turkey and Armenia.

`I think there are many in AKP who believe that increased commerce
makes better neighbors, and thus eases the way for better relations,’
Akinci wrote in one of his opinion pieces published in the Turkish
Daily News.

Azerbaijan’s Goyushov contends that Armenia’s occupation of
Azerbaijani territories is not the main reason preventing Turkey from
opening its borders with Armenia.

The main reason why every Turkish government remains adamant not to
forge diplomatic relations with Yerevan and to open the borders lies
with the Armenians’ persistence in propagating the so called Armenian
genocide, the analyst believes.

Goyushov noted that the opening of the Turkish-Armenian borders is
not the main goal Armenians are striving for. He believes that
Armenians will continue raising the genocide issue in foreign
parliaments even if Turkey opens the borders.

With regard to the perspectives of the Azerbaijani-Turkish
relationship of these borders possibly being opened, the expert said,
`doubtlessly, the [Azerbaijani] public would not be happy with this.’
But Goyushov thinks that Azerbaijanis should try to avoid emotions in
their relationship with Turkey.

`We should consider that Azerbaijan and Turkey are two separate
countries and although the two are bound by ethnicity and religion,
their interests can sometimes be different,’ he added.

Submitted by Janoyan Ana