ERDOGAN AGAIN LINKS TURKISH-ARMENIAN TIES WITH KARABAKH
April 9 2009
Amid growing pressure from Azerbaijan, Turkish Prime Minister
Recep Tayyip Erdogan has again made the normalization of his
country’s relations with Armenia conditional on a resolution of the
Nagorno-Karabakh conflict acceptable to Baku.
"The Azerbaijan-Armenian dispute should be resolved first. Then,
problems between Turkey and Armenia can be solved, too," Erdogan told
a news conference late on Wednesday.
"We hope the U.N. Security Council takes a decision naming Armenia
as occupier in Nagorno-Karabakh and calling for a withdrawal from
the region. This is a process the Minsk Group… could not succeed
in for 17 years. We hope this trio will accomplish that," he said,
according to Reuters news agency.
A Karabakh settlement was until recently Turkey’s main precondition for
establishing diplomatic relations and reopening its border with Armenia
which it had closed in 1993 out of solidarity with Azerbaijan. The
Turkish government appeared ready to drop that linkage when it embarked
on an unprecedented dialogue with Yerevan last year.
After months of intensive negotiations the two sides have come close
to normalizing bilateral ties. Recent reports in the Turkish and
Western press said a relevant Turkish-Armenian agreement could be
signed this month.
However, Erdogan poured cold water on those reports late last week
when he stated that Turkey can not reach a "healthy solution concerning
Armenia" as long as the Karabakh dispute remains unresolved. Armenian
Foreign Minister Eduard Nalbandian denounced the statement as an
attempt to scuttle the Turkish-Armenian dialogue. It is not clear
if Nalbandian raised the matter with Turkish Foreign Minister Ali
Babacan when he visited Istanbul earlier this week.
The two ministers held a brief meeting there with U.S. President Barack
Obama, who publicly made a case for improved relations between the
two neighbors during a two-day visit to Turkey. Obama also stressed
the importance of Turkish-Armenian reconciliation, a major U.S. policy
goal in the region, in an ensuing phone conversation with Azerbaijani
President Ilham Aliev.
Senior Azerbaijani officials have expressed serious concern at
the possible breakthrough in Turkish-Armenian ties, saying that it
would weaken Baku’s position in the Karabakh conflict. "It would be
painfully damaging to the Turkey-Azerbaijan brotherhood and to the
ideas of Turkic solidarity," the political parties represented in
Azerbaijan’s parliament said this week in a statement reported by
the APA news agency.
"With its policy [Turkey’s governing] Justice and Development Party
is stabbing Azerbaijan in the back," Vahid Ahmedov, a pro-government
member of the parliament, was reported to say on Wednesday.
The Turkish newspaper "Today’s Zaman" reported on Thursday that
Turkey’s President Abdullah Gul will visit Baku soon to discuss the
Azerbaijani concerns with Aliev. Citing an unnamed Turkish government
official, the paper said that the Turkish-Armenian border will likely
remain closed at least until October. "Ankara will use the time until
November to ease Azerbaijan’s concerns," it said.
In Armenia, meanwhile, there are growing calls for official Yerevan
to halt negotiations with Ankara if they do not lead to an agreement
soon. "If Turkey suddenly succumbs to Azerbaijan’s threats and these
negotiations yield no results soon, then I think the Armenian side
will not carry on with them," Giro Manoyan, a senior member of the
influential Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun),
told reporters on Wednesday. "The negotiations can be deemed failed
if they don’t produce quick results."
Former Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian took a similar view in an
interview with RFE/RL earlier this week. "I believe the ball is on the
Turkish court today," he said. "Turkey should overcome its dilemma and
open the border. Or else, Armenia should call a halt to this process."
From: Emil Lazarian | Ararat NewsPress