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Turkey Reassures Azerbaijan Over Armenian Border


Czech Republic -- Presidents Ilham Aliyev of Azerbaijan and Abdullah Gul of Turkey meet in Prague, 07May2009

Czech Republic -- Presidents Ilham Aliyev of Azerbaijan and Abdullah Gul of Turkey meet in Prague, 07May2009

Turkey has given Azerbaijan fresh assurances that it will not normalize relations with Armenia until a resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict satisfying Azerbaijani demands.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan reiterated on Tuesday that further progress in the Karabakh peace process will be a determining factor in the consideration by the Turkish parliament of the Turkish-Armenian agreements signed in Zurich over the weekend.

“The parliament will look at the developments in the problems between Azerbaijan and Armenia,” AFP news agency quoted Erdogan as telling a meeting of his party’s lawmakers, who hold the majority of seats in Turkey’s Grand National Assembly.

“If the problems... are put on the track of solution, the Turkish people will embrace more the normalization of Turkish-Armenian relations and the Turkish parliament's ratification of the protocols will become much easier,” he said.

The Turkish embassy in Baku was even more explicit about the Karabakh linkage as it tried to soothe Azerbaijani concerns about the Turkish-Armenian rapprochement in a statement released on Monday. “As our country’s prime minister repeatedly stated in his earlier statements, the opening of the Turkish-Armenian border will be impossible as long as the occupied Azerbaijani territories are not liberated,” read the statement cited by Azerbaijani media.

“The opening of border is quite a lengthy process,” added the embassy. “This process must run parallel to the process of resolving the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and liberating the occupied Azerbaijani territories.”

The assurances did not satisfy several dozen angry Azerbaijanis who staged a brief protest near the Turkish embassy on Tuesday, burning pictures of Erdogan and Turkey's President Abdullah Gul and shouting “Turkey, don't sell Karabakh to the Armenians,” and “Shame on the Turkish leadership.” Reuters news agency said the police later broke up the demonstration and several people were arrested.

The protest was organized by the Karabakh Liberation Organization, a hard-line pressure group hostile to any compromise with the Armenians.
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