Speaking before departure for Bulgaria to attend a summit, Gül said he had the chance to speak with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev many times recently to discuss the latest developments. "We both understand that the work under way will serve the two countries' interests. Therefore, there is no problem," said Gül. He spoke Thursday on the phone with Aliyev following the release of a joint statement by the Turkish and Armenian foreign ministries on normalization of bilateral relations under Swiss mediation.
Despite the fact that Gül ruled out any problem with Baku, Aliyev reportedly was not scheduled to attend the energy summit in Sophia, which means the two will be unable to hold a face-to-face meeting. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan announced that he was preparing to travel to Azerbaijan soonbut he was first waiting for U.S. President Barack Obama's statement on April 24, the commemoration day for World War I era-killings of Armenians. "We will never upset our Azeri brothers," said Erdoğan on Thursday.
In public, Turkish officials reiterate they would normalize their ties with Yerevan in parallel with a process to settle the dispute over Nagorno-Karabakh, an Azeri territory occupied by Armenian troops. Gül said an intense diplomacy was under way with Azerbaijan and Armenia, raising the hope for an expanded cooperation and solution to problems in the region.
Azerbaijani minister in Ankara
Azerbaijan's Defense Minister Sefer Abiyev was in Ankara yesterday at the invitation of his Turkish counterpart Vecdi Gönül, to participate in the 2009 International Defense Industry Fair. Besides talks with Erdoğan and Parliament Speaker Köksal Toptan, the minister held a meeting with Chief of General Staff Gen. İlker Başbuğ, which was interpreted as the shift of Baku's civilian pressure into the military sphere to dissuade Turkish leaders from opening the border with Armenia.
Azerbaijan's Ambassador to Ankara Zakir Hashimov said Turkey and Azerbaijan were two states and one nation and asked: "Could a crisis occur between the two brotherly countries?" Hashimov said as an independent state Turkey had the right to establish bilateral ties with any country but emphasized Turkish-Armenian relations must go in parallel to a settlement to the Nagorno-Karabakh issue. In reply to a question, he said Gül and Erdoğan gave assurances to Azerbaijan in that respect.