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Turkey Says Azeri Gas Talks Stumble Over Armenia


Azerbaijan -- Flags of Azerbaijan and Turkey wave together at Turkish Martyrs' Lane in Baku, 28Oct2009

Azerbaijan -- Flags of Azerbaijan and Turkey wave together at Turkish Martyrs' Lane in Baku, 28Oct2009

(Reuters) - Talks between Turkey and Azerbaijan over securing gas for Europe have stalled due to disagreements over Turkey's attempts to normalize relations with Azeri arch-enemy Armenia, Turkey said on Tuesday.

The talks over gas supplies from Azerbaijan's Shakh Deniz II gas project are crucial to help fill the European Union-backed Nabucco pipeline project, which aims to reduce Europe's dependence on Russian gas.

But Muslim Turkey's attempts to normalize relations with Christian Armenia, have angered fellow Muslim Azerbaijan. Armenia has backed ethnic Armenians in the Nagorno-Karabakh region who broke away from Azeri rule in the early 1990s.

"We have not talked with the Azeris for between a month and a month and a half, the fundamental issue here is politics," said Energy Minister Taner Yildiz, speaking at a news conference.

Turkey signed protocols late last year with Armenia which agreed to establish diplomatic relations and reopen their frontier, overcoming a century of hostility stemming from the World War One mass killings of Armenians by Ottoman forces.

The Turkish-Armenian peace moves however have been slowed as both sides accuse each other of trying to re-write the texts. Tensions between the two countries increased after a U.S. congressional committee passed a resolution branding the 1915 killings as genocide.

Turkey closed its border with Armenia in 1993 in a move of solidarity with Azerbaijan during the conflict over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region.

Yildiz said it was unclear whether a previous offer to transit the Azeri gas to Europe at below market prices had been accepted.
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