Türkiye’s Erdogan calls on Armenia to take ‘sincere steps towards peace’ on Azerbaijan trip

Sept 26 2023
Türkiye's Erdogan calls on Armenia to take 'sincere steps towards peace' on Azerbaijan trip
Louise Greenwood

Türkiye's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has called on Armenia to take what he calls "sincere steps towards peace," after last week's takeover by Azerbaijan of Nagorno-Karabakh. 

He was speaking alongside Azerbaijan's President Ilham Aliyev on a trip to the Azerbaijani autonomous enclave of Nakhchivan, just as thousands of ethnic Armenians continue to flee their homes in Nagorno-Karabakh. 

Last week Baku launched what it called an "anti-terrorist operation" in the mountainous region, that left an estimated 200 ethnic Armenians dead. 

Attending to open a new military facility, Erdogan said the takeover of Nagorno-Karabakh provided "an historic opportunity to build peace" in the South Caucasus region. The Turkish president urged Armenia to "seize the hand extended to them." 

Speaking alongside him, Azerbaijan's Aliyev said the operation to take control of Nagorno-Karabakh was carried out with what he called "the utmost sensitivity to the rights of civilians."


Explosions and arrests

The contested region is internationally recognized as being part of Azerbaijan but is home to an estimated 120,000 ethnic Armenians. Baku says it was forced to act after claiming that six of its citizens had been killed by landmines in two separate incidents in the territory, blaming Armenian armed groups for the incidents. 

Since the shelling by Azerbaijani forces last week, Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh have begun fleeing their homes and heading for the main border crossing into Armenia. On Monday there were reports of an explosion and injuries at a gas station as long queues built up, with people jostling to fill up their cars.

In the Armenian capital Yerevan, angry protests have continued between security forces and demonstrators who accuse the government of Nikol Pashinyan of failing to protect citizens of the region. More than 140 arrests have been made. 

Prime Minister Pashinyan has been defending his role, arguing that the leadership in the breakaway enclave has contributed to the unrest. He added that the Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh are now facing "ethnic cleansing" from the region.

In Moscow, a Kremlin spokesman has responded to claims by some Armenians that Russia has failed to act to support its main ally in the Caucasus. Dmitry Peskov says that Russia "categorically disagrees" that it bears responsibility for the violence of recent days.

Azerbaijan has said the Karabakh Armenians can continue to live peacefully in Nagorno-Karabakh if they are willing to lay down weapons and accept being governed from Baku. But with many more people moving to the border, the assurances seem to be ringing hollow to many.