BAKU: Azeri reporters march in Turkey

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Azeri reporters march in Turkey
Zulfugar Agayev

A group of 18 Azerbaijani journalists marched from the Eastern Turkish
district of Igdir to the capital Ankara on 6-9 April, demanding the
U.S. and European Union to stop pressing Ankara to open its borders
with Armenia. (Photo courtesy of ANS)

BAKU – A group of Azerbaijani journalists began marching from an eastern
Turkish district on Tuesday towards the capital Ankara in protest against
what they called a possibility that the Turkish authorities might decide to
open their borders with Armenia.

The group of 18, organized and financed by ANS, a leading private
Azerbaijani TV company, started walking from Igdir, a district bordering
both Armenia and Azerbaijan, on their way to Ankara. The group is due to
arrive in the Turkish capital on Friday.

The journalists from Azerbaijan’s ANS, Space and ATV TV companies,
Russian-language daily newspapers Echo and Zerkalo and also Azeri-language
dailies – Yeni Musavat, Azadliq, Sharq and 525th newspaper wore red vests
with the slogan “Turk’s support for Turk” written on their backs.

“We have come here to let the people know about our position on opening the
borders,” Ganira Pashayeva, Deputy ANS Editor, told Baku Sun in a telephone
interview from Igdir.

Pashayeva said that the protestors, joined also by their Turkish
counterparts and local residents, closed off a road near the
Turkish-Armenian border Tuesday afternoon, chanting the slogans “no to
opening of the Turkish-Armenian borders,” and “A Turk must Support his
brethren Turk.”

Ankara has established diplomatic relations with all the former Soviet
republics, but Armenia, and has been keeping its borders with the small
South Caucasus country closed since it gained independence in 1991.

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

Although there is no clear sign of Turkey’s backing down from the
stipulations, the border issue has been high on the agenda of several local
media outlets in Baku, especially that of ANS over the recent days.

The topic was even debated in Milli Majlis (parliament) on Tuesday. Although
the legislators turned down a suggestion to invite the Turkish ambassador to
Baku, Ahmet Unal Chevikoz, to the parliament and hear directly from him,
they voiced harsh words against the idea of opening Turkey’s gates to

“Only the doors of hell can be opened to the faces of Armenians,” said Mais
Safarli, an MP and head of the opposition Compatriot Pary.

Murtuz Aleskerov, the speaker of the parliament, said if Turkey were to
decide to open its doors to Armenia, “it would be a heavy blow to the whole
Turkish World.”

The Turkish ambassador Chevikoz responded to the speculations on Monday.
Speaking to ANS, Chevikoz promised that his country would stick to all of
its three stipulations, including the one that demands Armenia withdraw from
Azerbaijan’s occupied territories.

The ANS Deputy Editor Pashayeva related the concern of the Azerbaijani
public to Turkey’s coming under heavy pressure from the United States and
the European Union (EU) to open the borders.

Pashayeva also pointed to a statement Erdogan made while he was visiting the
United States late January of this year. According to

Turkish news reports, the premier said during his U.S. visit that his
government might decide to open borders “if the friendly initiatives of
Turkey were reciprocated.”

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

Pashayeva stressed that the Azerbaijani public is “particularly troubled
that high-ranking Turkish officials have not responded to our increasing
concern lately.”

The President, Ilham Aliyev also stated late March that the brethren country
was being pressed to open its borders.

Aliyev called on the EU and the “influential nations” not to pressure
Ankara, warning that the opened Turkish-Armenian borders would make it
impossible to find a peaceful solution to the 16-year-long Nagorno
(Daghlig)-Karabakh conflict. The president said should the borders be
opened, Azerbaijan would lose an important lever to regain its occupied
territories peacefully. ANS’s Pashayeva noted that the local authorities in
Igdir also joined the rally they staged in the district center. The
authorities reportedly said they hadn’t heard of any designs of their
government to open the borders.

Pashayeva added that the Azeri journalists also met with representatives of
the Turkish business people in the bordering district. The business people
also expressed dissatisfaction over the establishment of any relations with
Armenia as long as the latter keeps occupying Azerbaijan’s territories,
Pashayeva added.