Erdogan Again Links Armenia Ties With Karabakh Peace


Sep 28, 2009

ANKARA (RFE/RL)-Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan
was reported on Monday to have again linked the normalization of
Turkish-Armenian relations with a settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh
conflict that would satisfy Azerbaijan.

"We will not take steps contradicting Azerbaijan’s interests,"
Erdogan told the Azerbaijani Trend news agency in an interview. "We can
accelerate the process of the adoption of the agreement [with Armenia,]
but that will depend on the resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh

"Azerbaijan ‘s interests have always been important to Turkey. We will
never betray Azerbaijan," he said.

Azerbaijan has repeatedly made clear that it would consider the
reopening of the Turkish-Armenian border before a Karabakh settlement
a serious blow to its national interests. Baku reiterated that
immediately after the August 31 publication of two Turkish-Armenian
draft protocols envisaging border opening and diplomatic relations
between the two states. Neither document makes any reference to the
Armenian-Azerbaijani dispute.

Erdogan was quoted as telling Turkish media chiefs earlier this month
that Ankara will not lift its long-running economic blockade of Armenia
"as long as Azerbaijan’s occupied territories are not returned." The
Armenian government criticized the remarks, with Foreign Minister
Eduard Nalbandian saying that they run counter to "the letter, spirit
and aims" of the Turkish-Armenian agreements.

Ending a visit to the United States, Erdogan told journalists on Sunday
that the two protocols will be signed by Nalbandian and his Turkish
counterpart Ahmet Davutoglu on October 10. The AFP news agency cited
an unnamed Turkish official as saying that the signing ceremony will
take place in Zurich, Switzerland.

The Armenian Foreign Ministry declined to confirm or refute the
information. But President Serzh Sarkisian’s spokesman, Samvel
Farmanian, indicated that no dates have been set for the ceremony
yet. "When there is clarity about the next phases of the process,
we will make a statement," he told the information agency.

The agreements, welcomed by the United States, the European Union and
Russia, need to be ratified by the Armenian and Turkish parliament
in order to come into effect. Erdogan told Trend that his government
will send it to the Turkish parliament ratification "if we don’t
encounter some obstacles and if that step does not take into account
only domestic political interests." He did not elaborate.

The Turkish-Armenian rapprochement was reportedly on the agenda of
Erdogan’s weekend meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama held on the
sidelines of the G-20 summit in Pittsburgh. According to "Hurriyet
Daily News," the Turkish premier told Obama that the U.S., Russian
and French mediators "would make things easier" if they pressed for
an Armenian-Azerbaijani agreement on Karabakh "more actively."

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