BAKU: Obama Backs Better Turkey-Armenia Ties In Talks With Azeri Pre


AzerNews Weekly
April 15 2009

US President Barack Obama has said Washington backs efforts to improve
Turkey-Armenia relations during a phone conversation with Azerbaijani
leader Ilham Aliyev.

During the phone call Obama called for a negotiated solution of
long-standing disputes involving Azerbaijan, Armenia and Turkey,
the White House said. He also emphasized that the bettering of ties
between Ankara and Yerevan would promote peace and well-being in the
volatile region.

Baku is concerned over efforts to reconcile their close ally Turkey
with arch-foe Armenia. Reports have circulated that Turkey plans
to open its border with Armenia, which has been closed since 1993
due to Armenia`s occupation of Azerbaijani territory and its claims
regarding World War I-era genocide in the Ottoman Empire.

During the conversation, the US president said his country was
committed to maintaining ties with Azerbaijan, pledging to assist
in the efforts to move forward the resolution of its long-running
conflict with Armenia over Upper (Nagorno) Garabagh.

The talks came after Obama visited Turkey, where he urged Turkey and
Armenia to advance talks to establish diplomatic ties and open their
shared border.

According to President Aliyev`s office, among the issues discussed
were ways of resolving the Garabagh problem, energy cooperation and
regional security.

The two presidents had a frank conversation during which they
expressed satisfaction at the successful development of Azerbaijan-US
relations. Aliyev conveyed to his US counterpart Baku`s position on
Turkey-Armenia relations.

"Barack Obama informed the Azerbaijani leader about steps taken by
the United States concerning Turkey-Armenia relations. President
Ilham Aliyev brought the Azerbaijani state`s position on the issue
to the US president`s attention," according to a statement released
by Aliyev`s office.

Analysts say that Baku`s clear-cut position on Turkey`s plans to open
its border with Armenia and the statements by Turkish officials remains
uncertain, although Aliyev hinted during a meeting of Azerbaijan`s
Security Council early last week that Baku could retaliate against
Turkish moves to reconcile with Armenia.

"We are observing ongoing changes in the region and necessary measures
will be taken," the local media quoted Aliyev as saying. "Our country
has never interfered in the affairs of other countries and we have
no such intentions in the future. However, it is our right to pursue
our policy in accordance with the situation in the region."

Arastun Orujlu, the head of Azerbaijan`s East-West Research
Center, says that the public is insufficiently informed about
certain issues. According to Orujlu, Obama`s message does not clearly
indicate whether the U.S. approaches Garabagh settlement talks from the
viewpoint of Azerbaijan`s territorial integrity or Garabagh Armenians`
aspiration regarding self-determination.

Another political analyst, Elkhan Shahinoglu said, while commenting
on Obama`s message stating support for improved Turkey-Armenia
relations, that the US president, in fact, approaches the issue from
the standpoint of Washington`s interests.

"Improving Turkey-Armenia ties is important for Obama. On one hand,
the Armenian lobby is pressing Obama, while on the other, the American
president does not want to lose an ally like Turkey. After relations
between the two countries improve, his attention to the Upper Garabagh
conflict might increase."

Orujlu, for his part, said Obama`s message was meant to put pressure
on Azerbaijan. However, the question arises as to whether or not this
pressure could alter Baku`s stance.

"In any case, there are powerful international mechanisms and, if they
are put to use, Azerbaijan may have to back down," Orujlu maintained.

Also, Orujlu said the local public lacks detailed information about the
proposals being made to Azerbaijan regarding the Garabagh settlement,
however, resistance by Baku enables a presumption that these proposals
do not reflect the country`s interests.

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