Azerbaijan is confident that Turkey will not establish diplomatic relations and open its border with Armenia before the resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev said in a newspaper interview published on Thursday.
Aliyev told “The Wall Street Journal” that he trusts in repeated statements to that effect made by Turkish leaders.
“There is a common understanding in the region that there should be a first step by Armenia to start the liberation of the occupied territories,” Aliyev said, speaking in the margins of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. He said he is “fully satisfied” with Turkey's understanding of the issue, despite harshly criticizing Turkey's handling of it in the past.
“If the two issues are disconnected, then probably Armenia will freeze negotiations with Azerbaijan,” Aliyev said, adding that economic pressure is one of the main incentives for Yerevan to make concessions to Baku.
The Azerbaijani government reacted angrily to the October signing of the Turkish-Armenian normalization “protocols” welcomed by the international community. Aliyev went as far as to threaten to reroute Azerbaijani natural gas and oil exports away from Turkey.
Turkish leaders, notably Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, have since repeatedly assured Baku that Turkey’s parliament will not ratify the protocols unless the long-running Armenian-Azerbaijani talks yield a breakthrough. Their Armenian counterparts have rejected this “precondition,” arguing that neither document makes any reference to the Karabakh conflict.
“The Wall Street Journal” on Thursday also quoted a senior aide to President Serzh Sarkisian as reaffirming Yerevan’s threats to annul the agreements if Ankara sticks to the Karabakh linkage. Vigen Sargsian, deputy chief of the presidential staff, said the Armenian government is currently preparing relevant legislation.
“If this opportunity is lost it will push the whole region back, not to where we started when talks began but beyond that,” warned Sargsian. That, he said, would destroy trust between the two estranged nations.