BAKU: Baku Unruffled By Turkish-Armenian Talks


July 21 2008

A senior Azerbaijani official has said there was no need for Bakus
harsh protests against the recently-started dialog between Turkey
and Armenia. The talks currently under way between the two countries
serve to determining the nature of bilateral relations, their history
and current state, the head of the Presidents Office international
relations department, Novruz Mammadov, said, adding that Ankara was
securing its own interests in its relations with the neighboring
country. As for the relations between Azerbaijan and Turkey, he
said the two states were enjoying close ties and always acted as
fraternal nations and strategic partners, and this affected the
mentioned developments.

Overall, even without our insistence, Turkey has attached great
importance since the very beginning to the Armenia-Azerbaijan Upper
(Nagorno) Garabagh conflict in its relations with Armenia and stated
that these ties depend on the resolution of this conflict. Mammadov
said some contacts between Turkey and Armenia were possible in
principle. He said Armenia was striving to achieve opening of the
border between the two countries by all means. In reality, there are
factors impeding this. The biggest problem is that Armenian leaders
should eliminate the hurdles of their own that stand in the way of
negotiating and taking relations to a high level, Mammadov said. He
cited such examples as territorial claims against Turkey reflected
in the Armenian Constitution and Yerevans frequent attempts to use
the genocide claims as tools of pressure on Ankara. I believe that
Turkey is trying to strike understanding with Armenia and to fairly
resolve the situation that emerged. On one hand, this is also a
test for Turkey with regard to the promises it has made. But I dont
think Turkey will take any steps counter to Azerbaijans interests,
the presidential administration official concluded. Armenia and
Turkey have been at odds and the border between the two countries
has been closed since 1993 on Ankaras insistence due to Armenias
policy of occupation and the Armenian genocide claims. Armenia has
been occupying over 20% of Azerbaijani territory since the early
1990s in defiance of international law. Armenians term the 1915
developments in the Ottoman Empire as genocide, a claim strenuously
denied by the modern Turkish state. The Azerbaijan Foreign Ministry
spokesman Khazar Ibrahim said his country took Ankaras statements and
position as a basis regarding the issue of Turkish-Armenian dialog. If
Turkish officials state that the countrys stance remains unchanged,
we hope that Ankaras future steps will be based on that policy,
he told a news conference Monday. Ibrahim said that unlike Turkey,
the issue concerning the Armenia-Azerbaijan border is very complex
as it depends not only on Azerbaijans will. It is common knowledge
that most of Azerbaijans territories bordering on Armenia are under
occupation. From this standpoint, even if we seek to open up the
border, we cant do it in these conditions. Therefore, the key issue
is that Armenia must withdraw its armed forces from our occupied
land. Armenia and Azerbaijan waged a war over the mountainous region
of Upper (Nagorno) Garabagh in the early 1990s, which claimed some
30,000 lives and displaced about a million Azerbaijanis. Armenia has
been occupying over 20% of Azerbaijans internationally-recognized
territory since then. The ceasefire accord was signed in 1994, but
the OSCE-brokered peace talks have been fruitless so far.