BAKU: Istanbul talks – breakthrough or not

Azer News, Azerbaijan
July 1 2004

Istanbul talks – breakthrough or not

President Aliyev and Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov, who arrived
in Istanbul, Turkey to attend the June 28-29 NATO summit, held
discussions on the settlement of a number of interstate and regional
problems. President Aliyev also held closed-door meetings with
Turkish President Ahmet Necdet

Sezer and Prime Minister Recep Tayyib Erdogan on Monday. No
statements were issued upon conclusion of the talks. “Along with
Upper Garabagh conflict, the parties discussed issues pertaining to
Turkish-Azerbaijani cooperation and the Cyprus conflict”, Turkish
President’s spokesman told journalists.

Armenia backs Turkish efforts
On Monday, the Azerbaijani, Turkish and Armenian foreign ministers,
Elmar Mammadyarov, Abdullah Gul and Vardan Oskanian held a private
trilateral meeting in Istanbul, Turkey at the NATO summit. The three
foreign ministers held a news conference following the meeting.
According to Dursun Ozden, Azernews correspondent in Turkey, the
ministers stated that their countries were interested in maintaining
peace and stability in the region. They underlined that the peaceful
settlement of the conflict over Upper Garabagh as well as ways and
means of cooperation in achieving stability were discussed during the
meeting. It was stressed that Turkey, which is a member of NATO and
has great influence in the region, could play an active role in the
resolution of the conflict. The Azerbaijani and Armenian foreign
ministers stressed that they supported Turkey’s increasing efforts to
solve the conflict. Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul said that
peace and stability in the Caucasus are attracting growing attention
internationally. “NATO is promoting a new strategic shift towards
South Caucasus states. The European Union in its newly introduced
“Neighborhood Policy” has decided to implement a new strategy for the
South Caucasus. Therefore, a new strategic vision should be shaped by
the countries of the region,” he stressed. Gul also noted that the
South Caucasus countries had not yet been able to overcome the
problems which are threatening stability and discouraging economic
prosperity in the region. Underlining the need to hold further
trilateral meetings, the three ministers stated that such meetings
would promote mutual understanding. Armenian Foreign Minister
Oskanian said that the parties also touched upon the issue of opening
the Turkish-Armenian border. He added that it will take “some time”
to resolve the problem. The Armenian side was offered a new formula
for the settlement similar to the one used in resolving the Cyprus
conflict, Turkish diplomatic sources said. Prior to the trilateral
meeting, Turkish and Armenian foreign ministers Abdullah Gul and
Vardan Oskanian met in private. Along with the Garabagh conflict, the
two discussed the relations between Turkey and Armenia, Turkish media
reported. The friendly nature of the statements by both the Armenian
and Azerbaijani foreign ministers is amazing. Particularly surprising
is Mammadyarov’s statement that Armenia and Azerbaijan were
interested in Turkey’s stepping up its role in the settlement of the

Baku ready to “soften” its position – Turkish sources
Yerevan has previously unequivocally opposed Ankara’s involvement in
the process, saying that Turkey could not be an impartial mediator.
Mammadyarov also said that the details of Turkey’s participation in
the conflict resolution would be outlined in the next 2-3 months.
Opposition sources in Ankara said a break through in the
Turkish-Armenian relations may take place soon. The parties have
allegedly agreed to open the Turkish-Armenian frontier, and it is
necessary to prepare the public in both Azerbaijan and Turkey for
this. Azerbaijan will play a special role in the public awareness
campaign. Turkey will try to convince Baku that in the changing
conditions such a step would not contradict Azerbaijan’s interests.
According to the same source, it is for this reason that Armenian
Foreign Minister Oskanian said it would take “some time” to resolve
the problem. His statement implies that in general, the problem can
be resolved, but it will take a while to work out some controversial
issues, including Baku’s disapproval of the opening of the
Turkish-Armenian frontier. It appears that Baku is ready to “soften”
its position in order to avoid damaging relations with Turkey.
However, such a step would most likely be interpreted by the
Azerbaijani public as another diplomatic defeat. Azerbaijan and
Armenia were close to a breakthrough in resolving the conflict in the
past. Former President Ter-Petrosian was close to resolving the
controversial issues between Turkey, Azerbaijan and Armenia when he
was overthrown. In 1999, when the international community urged
Kocharian to attend the Istanbul talks, the Armenian parliament
speaker and the Prime Minister were shot to death in the country’s
parliament. Armenia is therefore an unpredictable country and hopes
for the settlement of the conflict remain uncertain.