ANKARA, Sept 11, 2008 (AFP) - Turkish President Abdullah Gul said Armenia and Azerbaijan are willing to resolve their conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh region after talks in the two countries, Anatolia news agency reported Thursday.
Armenia and Azerbaijan both have “an honest and sincere desire for a settlement,” Gul told reporters on a flight back from talks in Baku, which followed his historic trip to Yerevan on Saturday, Anatolia reported.
“I am coming back with feelings of great content and optimism,” Gul said, adding that the conflict between Georgia and Russia had triggered a new desire to resolve outstanding problems in the Caucasus.
Turkey wants progress in ending Nagorno-Karabakh tensions between Azerbaijan, one of its closest allies, and traditional foe Armenia, which would allow Ankara to take bolder steps in its reconciliation bid with Yerevan.
Turkey has refused to establish diplomatic ties with Armenia because of its international campaign for the recognition of the mass killings of Armenians under the Ottoman Empire during World War I as genocide.
In 1993, Turkey also dealt a heavy economic blow to its impoverished eastern neighbor by shutting the border in a show of solidarity with Azerbaijan, then at war with Armenia over Nagorno-Karabakh, an Armenian-majority region in Azerbaijan which declared independence.
Gul played down suggestions that Ankara’s push to reconcile with Yerevan had irked Azerbaijan, which has close economic and political ties as well as ethnic and cultural bonds with Turkey.
“We agree that we should make efforts to try to resolve the issue... If this opportunity is missed, who knows when a new opportunity will arise?... Everyone is aware that a settlement will lead to comprehensive cooperation from which all will benefit,” he said.
Gul became the first Turkish head of state to visit Armenia when he traveled to Yerevan on Saturday to watch a World Cup qualifying football match between the two countries on an invitation by Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian.
Turkish Foreign Minister Ali Babacan said Wednesday he was trying to organize a trilateral meeting with his Azeri and Armenian counterparts at the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York later this month.