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    Elections ease tensions in Baku over Turkish trip to Armenia

    HotNewsTurkey Staff
    18 Ekim 2008 - 11:51Son Güncelleme : 18 Ekim 2008 - 11:54

    Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev, set for a second term after Wednesday's election, will make his first official visit to turkey, a sign that shows he has no bitter feelings for the visit of Turkish President Abdullah Gul to Armenia, the Turkish Daily News (TDN) wrote on Saturday.

    But this stance does not reflect the sour of feeling of the people on the street about the Turkish-armenian rapprocment, the newspaper added.

    Azerbaijan's presidential election resulted in an easy and expected victory for the incumbent candidate of the ruling New Azerbaijan Party, Ilham Aliyev, who begins his second term in office.  

    Extensive efforts by the central election committee to prove to the world that voting would be democratic, which included measures such as using transparent ballot boxes and the use of cameras in polling stations, resulted in a calm and quiet process.

    However, this did not prevent observers from international organizations criticizing the credibility of the election due to an opposition boycott. This came as no surprise in the land of "black gold," where political power is defined and redefined according to a leader's charisma and capability to play the game at home and overseas.

    Six low-key candidates, who ran against Aliyev, were a long way from winning the hearts and minds of Azerbaijanis, who apparently still believed the son of the founder of the Republic, Haydar Aliyev, remained the right man for the job.

    Six deputies from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), the opposition Republican People's Party (CHP), and the Nationalist Action Party (MHP), headed to the Turkish observation mission in Baku to monitor the election in a four-day trip organized by think-tank, the Marmara Group Foundation.

    The Turkish mission was impressed with the transparency of the process.

    Initial concerns about the possible implications of President Abddullah Gul's visit to Yerevan over Turkish-Azerbaijani relations, faded after the Turkish mission became the first international delegation received by President Aliyev on Thursday, while a long list of other delegations from the world were queuing outside the presidential palace to congratulate his victory.

    Other positive news was President Aliyev's message that he would not break with tradition and would pay his first official visit to Ankara. However, these gestures exchanged at the political level do not completely reflect the emotional fatigue caused by the football diplomacy between Ankara and Yerevan despite the ongoing occupation of Nagorno-Karabakh by Armenia. 

    "When we made mistakes our leader Haydar Aliyev first listened to our defense and then forgave us, what he never forgave was treason," a government minister told the TDN.

    When these words are put within the relevant context of Ankara's move towards Armenia, the implication is that Turkey has made a mistake, but not yet betrayed Azerbaijan. "In the end we have nothing to loose. We lost our land. Turkey has a lot more to loose with a faulty policy. It is up to Turkey to evaluate the pros and cons," he added, while still refraining from open criticism.

    It was striking to see a similar approach from men in the street, who generally tried to hide their real feelings over Gul's visit but each concluded the conversation with the sentence "Turkey is a big country."

    Looking through the eyes of a 17-year-old republic with a population of almost eight million, which still lingers between one-man rule and democracy and still feels the cold breathe of Russia on its neck, Turkey stands out as the big brother they want to trust. In fact Azerbaijanis believe the real power that occupied Nagorno-Karabakh is not Armenia, but Russia.

    Following the Georgian conflict in August and Russian recognition of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, the United States has moved to speed up the resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Efforts are expected to intensify soon, now that the presidential election in Azerbaijan is completed.

    When the Azerbaijani government minister was asked whether there was a chance to reach a solution to the conflict in the short-term, he replied with a joke the belied the full reality of the situation, "This issue can only be resolved if we buy out Armenia."

    Diplomatic sources claim this attitude was reflected, somehow, in the negotiations carried out by the Minsk Group of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (the OSCE). Baku is said to be trying to secure the return of displaced Azerbaijanis and create a basis for economic dependency on Azerbaijan even if Nagorno-Karabakh takes a path towards independence.

    Observers believe that the position of Ankara will be crucial at this stage of negotiations and that Ankara's dialogue with Yerevan could assist with the process.

    Turkey however, will need to find a balance between pro-active politics and its brotherly ties with Azerbaijan. Even a television show can hurt the feelings of Azerbaijanis, said MHP deputy, Tugrul Turkes, while speaking about political complaints they received during meetings in Baku.

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