(RFE/RL) - A leader of a Turkish party with Islamist roots that swept to power in November 3 general elections indicated on Monday that it will not reconsider Turkey's tough stance against neighboring Armenia and will continue to give full support to Azerbaijan.
"We are trying to keep good relations with Armenia and other countries. But Turkey is not willing to sacrifice them and jeopardize its relations with Azerbaijan and other Central Asian countries," Abdulatif Siner, deputy chairman of the Justice and Development Party (AKP), told an RFE/RL correspondent in Ankara.
"The Turkish people are especially sensitive to the situation in Azerbaijan, and Azerbaijan has some expectations from Turkey," Siner said, alluding to Baku's strong opposition to the normalization of Turkish-Armenian relations until a resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
Successive governments in Ankara have consistently stuck to that line out of solidarity with their Turkic-speaking Caucasus ally, refusing to establish diplomatic relations with Yerevan. Siner's remarks suggest that this policy will not change under the new Turkish cabinet, which the AKP is currently forming single-handedly.
Siner argued that despite "long historical and cultural ties" with Armenia, Turkey must be primarily guided by its national interests. "We believe that we should have good relations with all countries," he said. "It means our foreign policy shouldn't be based on animosity. Normal relations should continue, but each country should follow the policy which serves its national purposes."
The AKP's popular leader and winner of recent elections, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has already ruled out major changes in Turkish foreign policy as part of his efforts to soothe the country's secular establishment and powerful military. Erdogan is expected to present his candidate for prime minister to President Ahmet Necdet Sezer this week. Siner is thought to be among his possible nominees.
The United States has long been pushing for the improvement of Turkish-Armenian relations, seeing them as vital for regional stability. Last month, the administration of President George W. Bush promised to press Turkey to lift its long-standing economic blockade of Armenia. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage conveyed the pledge in a letter to the U.S. Senate.