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Russian Leader Sees Progress On Karabakh, Backs Turkish-Armenian Thaw


Turkey -- President Abdullah Gul (L) chats with his Russian counterpart Dmitry Medvedev at the Presidential Palace of Cankaya in Ankara, 12May2010

Turkey -- President Abdullah Gul (L) chats with his Russian counterpart Dmitry Medvedev at the Presidential Palace of Cankaya in Ankara, 12May2010

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev spoke of progress in the Nagorno-Karabakh peace process and voiced support for the normalization of Turkish-Armenian relations on Wednesday during an official visit to Ankara that cemented his country’s growing ties with Turkey.


Medvedev appeared to sidestep implicit Turkish calls for a stronger Russian pressure on Armenia which Ankara says is essential for achieving a Karabakh settlement and thereby unlocking its fence-mending negotiations with Yerevan.

Speaking ahead of Medvedev’s trip, Turkish officials expressed hope that Moscow will become even more actively involved in Armenian-Azerbaijani peace talks. The Turkish ambassador in Moscow, Halil Akinci, argued on Monday that unlike the two other co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group, France and the United States, Russia is a “regional country.”

The Karabakh dispute was reportedly on the agenda of Medvedev’s talks with Turkey’s President Abdullah Gul and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, which resulted in the signing of more than a dozen Russian-Turkish agreements.

The Russian leader said the two nations as well as other members of the Minsk Group should contribute to the conflict’s peaceful resolution. “But all the basic issues must be discussed by the conflicting parties themselves in the first instance,” he told a joint news conference with Gul.

Medvedev stressed that Russia is “not a conflicting party” despite its “special mission” in the region. “We are a mediator who is, however, actively involved in the process,” he said, according to Interfax.

Turkey -- Prime Minister Recep Tayyip (R) with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev after their joint press conference in Ankara, 12May2010
“Steps inspiring hope have been made of late in settling the Nagorno-Karabakh problem,” said Medvedev. “The parties meet, exchange views and in fact make progress on a number of aspects of settlement. But this does not mean that agreement
has been reached on all questions. Consultations continue.”

Medvedev further expressed hope that Armenia and Turkey will eventually succeed in normalizing bilateral relations. This would “help stabilize the situation in our region, actively develop economic relations, and, as a result, simply increase the living
standards in all countries in our region,” he said.

Turkey makes the establishment of diplomatic relations conditional on a breakthrough in international efforts to broker a Karabakh settlement acceptable to Azerbaijan. Erdogan underscored that linkage when he said after talks with Medvedev that his government could seek a direct involvement in the negotiating process spearheaded by the American, Russian and French co-chairs of the Minsk Group.

“I think that if the Minsk Group continues to work successfully, we will consider the issue of Turkey’s participation in the negotiating process,” Itar-Tass news agency quoted Erdogan as telling journalists. The Turkish premier earlier criticized the Minsk Group co-chairs.

Armenian leaders have repeatedly ruled out any Turkish mediation in the process, citing Turkey’s close ties with and unconditional support for Azerbaijan.

The Armenian and Azerbaijani governments, meanwhile, traded fresh accusations of obstructing the peace process on Wednesday. Armenian Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian again dismissed Azerbaijani leaders’ claims that they have largely accepted the international mediators’ recently modified basic principles of Karabakh peace. Speaking at a high-level Council of Europe meeting in Strasbourg, Nalbandian insisted that unspecified “exceptions” cited by them outweigh provisions of the so-called Madrid Document acceptable to Baku.

A spokesman for the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry denied this later in the day. “Evidently, the aim of Armenia's insinuations is to avoid giving a direct answer to the question of whether or not it accepts the updated Madrid document,” Elkhan Polukhov told Interfax.

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