By Emil Danielyan
Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the leader of Turkey's governing Justice and Development Party, has called for a quick settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh that would primarily favor Azerbaijan, reports from Baku said on Tuesday. He was also understood to rule out any softening of Turkish policy on Armenia.
"We hope for the soonest possible resolution of this issue in Azerbaijan's favor. We are with our Azerbaijani brothers," Erdogan said after talks in Baku with Azerbaijani President Heydar Aliev. A local newspaper quoted Erdogan as expressing his dissatisfaction with the “fruitless activities” of U.S., Russian and French mediators from the OSCE Minsk Group.
Aliev and other members of his administration have repeatedly criticized the group for not presenting peace proposals that would restore Azerbaijani control of the disputed region.
Erdogan, whose party swept to a landslide victory in the Turkish general elections last November, was in Azerbaijan on the first leg of his tour of the Turkic-speaking former Soviet republics. Turkey has particularly close ethnic and cultural bonds with Azerbaijan and has lent it full support throughout the Karabakh dispute -- the main reason for its refusal to normalize relations with Armenia.
Erdogan indicated no imminent shift from that policy, saying that Ankara “will never act against the will of the Azerbaijani people.” “In this regard, Turkey will continue its policy [toward Armenia] and stand by the Azerbaijani people,” he told reporters.
The popular leader further said that Turkey and Azerbaijan should strengthen their relationship further. He noted in particular that construction of pipelines transporting Azerbaijani oil and gas to his country should be sped up.
In an interview with RFE/RL late last month, Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian, said official Yerevan wants to continue direct diplomatic contacts with Ankara on ways of improving bilateral ties despite the latter’s reluctance to reconsider its pro-Azerbaijani stance. Oskanian held a series of face-to-face meeting in 2001 and 2002 with Turkey’s then foreign minister, Ismail Cem. He has yet to meet with his new Turkish counterpart, Yasar Yakis.