Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has accused Armenia of “playing with fire” in its continuing bitter disputes with Azerbaijan and Turkey.
Erdogan scoffed at Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian’s declared readiness for a full-scale war in Nagorno-Karabakh as he flew from Baku to Croatia’s capital Zagreb on Wednesday. He also blasted Sarkisian for accusing Turkey of maintaining “hostile attitudes” towards the Armenians more than a century after the Armenian genocide in the Ottoman Empire.
“Armenia is playing with fire,” the Turkish pro-government daily “Yeni Safak” quoted Erdogan as telling reporters. “More than 100,000 Armenians live in Turkey and some of them do not have residence permits. This has been tolerated by Turkey.”
“We have also returned [confiscated] foundation assets of Turkish citizens of Armenian descent. These actions show just how friendly Turkey has been. However, Armenia cannot see this,” he said.
“Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and his country have been gaining power in the ongoing clashes,” Erdogan went on, turning to the escalation of the Karabakh conflict. “Even Russia cannot support Armenia openly.”
“In terms of its population, number of the troops and other opportunities, Azerbaijan is much more powerful than Armenia. Azerbaijan is unique and different from Georgia or Ukraine,” he said.
The Armenian government hit back at the Turkish leader on Thursday. “With its xenophobia, obsession with spreading destabilization and bloodshed, and genocidal approaches, Azerbaijan is verysimilar to only one state: Turkey,” charged Deputy Foreign Minister Shavarsh Kocharian.
“Such jittery statements by Ankara and Baku betray a strong fear of finding themselves in deep international isolation as a result of their racist policies,” Kocharian claimed in comments to Tert.am.
Kocharian also accused Erdogan of using the existence of an Armenian community in Turkey to blackmail Yerevan. “Turkey’s president is trying to threaten Armenia, linking the dependence of Armenians living in Turkey on the country’s authorities and his denialist statement made on April 24,” he said.
Erdogan pledged to back Azerbaijan "to the end" hours after fierce clashes involving tanks and heavy artillery broke out along the Karabakh “line of contact” on April 2. He also held the U.S., Russian and French mediators responsible for the heavy fighting.
Sarkisian condemned the Turkish support for the “Azerbaijani adventure” in Karabakh. Russia, which helped to stop the fighting on April 5, also denounced Ankara’s “one-sided” statements.
“The statements by the Turkish leadership are absolutely unacceptable for the simple reason that they were calls for war, not peace,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said during a visit to Armenia on April 22.