Azerbaijan’s loud opposition to prospects of a Turkish decision to open its border with Armenia before a solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict has disturbed Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan but was backed by opposition leaders.
When speaking to Justice and Development Party, or AKP, deputies in Parliament yesterday, Erdoğan denied that the party would take actions that would ignore Azerbaijan’s concerns about Nagorno-Karabakh.
The AKP’s views on Azerbaijan are clear," said party-leader Erdoğan. "Unfortunately, such an important and sensitive matter is abused for the sake of politics."
Azerbaijani women deputies, who gifted a box of soil from the occupied Karabakh region to Parliament Speaker Köksal Toptan during a recent visit to Turkey, were exempt from Erdoğan’s criticism.
"My words are also for those who come from Azerbaijan and follow misguided policies here. We have never let down our Azerbaijani brothers before," Erdoğan said. The women deputies visited the Republican People’s Party, or CHP, and the Nationalist Movement Party, or MHP, but left the AKP headquarters off their agenda.
"Azerbaijan’s normalization efforts with Armenia and Turkey’s similar efforts with Azerbaijan are related to each other. They are parallel," Erdoğan said, adding that his government has been urging the participating parties to act quickly in the Minsk process. "We constantly tell the U.S., France and Russia to reach an end in the talks."
The Minsk group was established by the Conference for Security and Cooperation in Europe in 1992 (now the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe) to encourage a peaceful solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Turkey closed its borders with Armenia in 1993 as a reaction to an Armenian military occupation of mainly Armenian-populated Nagorno-Karabakh territory of Azerbaijan along with other Azerbaijani soil inhabited by Azerbaijanis.
’Turkey’s biggest mistake’
Baykal agreed with Erdoğan on the need to normalize relations with Armenia but emphasized the major obstacle as the "Armenian occupation of 20 percent of Azerbaijani soil, condemned by the United Nations in the past." "The problem is not confined to Nagorno-Karabakh, but involves other Azerbaijani territories where Azeris live under Armenian occupation," Baykal said. "What we have is that Azerbaijan holds a deep bitterness toward Turkey," the opposition leader asserted. "If this trend continues, Turkey will establish its biggest diplomacy mistake." He elaborated his position by outlining power relations in the South Caucasus. "Armenia and Russia have close relations, and Russians have soldiers on their soil. Moreover, Iran nurtures good relations with Armenia. We must keep our ties with Azerbaijan good," Baykal said, "or else you will witness Azerbaijani natural gas and oil being marketed by Russia. That would leave the European Union, Turkey and Azerbaijan in a very difficult position. President Abdullah Gül must visit Baku and make it up to Azerbaijan."
"Turkey must show the same attention to Azerbaijan as it shows to Somalia and Bahrain," he said.
MHP leader Devlet Bahçeli reiterated Baykal’s position regarding Turkey’s policy of rapprochement toward Armenia. "The MHP’s position is clear enough to rule out any hesitations," Bahçeli said.