Turkish President Abdullah Gul reaffirmed his country’s unconditional support for Azerbaijan in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and criticized international mediators ahead of a state visit to Baku that began on Monday.
The unresolved dispute was reportedly on the agenda of his talks with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev held later in the day.
Reports from Baku said the two leaders signed a new Turkish-Azerbaijani agreement on “strategic partnership” and “mutual assistance.” Details of the agreement were not immediately made public.
Gul stated both before and after the talks that the Karabakh conflict must be resolved rapidly and on the basis of Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity. In a weekend interview with the Azerbaijani APA news agency, he said Ankara “will do everything necessary” for a Karabakh settlement acceptable to Baku. “The world will not accept continued [Armenian] occupation of our fraternal country,” he said.
The Turkish president also took a swipe at U.S., Russian and French mediators co-chairing the OSCE Minsk Group. “We want the Minsk Group to move close to the conflict’s resolution,” he told APA. “But as things stand now, people call visits to the region by Minsk Group representatives ‘tourist trips.’ Therefore, new steps need to be taken.”
“In 2008, I came up with such an initiative. At first, I traveled to Yerevan, then honorable [President Serzh] Sarkisian visited Turkey. We informed honorable President Ilham Aliyev about this whole process,” Gul added, referring to the Turkish-Armenian rapprochement that eventually ended in failure.
Armenian leaders have said all along that the Karabakh conflict was never on the agenda of Turkish-Armenian fence-mending negotiations. They say the process failed because Ankara subsequently reverted to linking the normalization of Turkish-Armenian with Karabakh peace.
Gul appeared to single out Russia’s “important” role in the mediation process. But he also acknowledged, “Such difficult problems can not solved under pressure from of a single country.”
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan described Russia as “the most important actor” in the Karabakh peace process and urged it do more to broker an Armenian-Azerbaijani settlement when he visited Moscow in January.
However, both President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir sidestepped the implicit Turkish calls for a stronger Russian pressure on Armenia during their subsequent visits to Turkey. “We don’t want anyone to think [after the conflict’s resolution] that we pressured one of the parties and achieved a solution to the problem that is unfair to somebody,” Putin said in Ankara in June.
Putin also stressed earlier this year that the Turks should drop their Karabakh talks in their talks with Yerevan.