Senior government officials in Azerbaijan criticized Turkey’s President Abdullah Gul on Thursday for congratulating his Armenian counterpart Serzh Sarkisian on winning a second term in office.
News of the congratulatory letter sent by Gul to Yerevan was reported by the official Turkish Anatolia news agency on Wednesday. It was not immediately confirmed by Sarkisian’s office.
Officials in Baku expressed serious concern at the development, with President Ilham Aliyev’s chief foreign policy aide demanding an official explanation from Ankara. “If there was such a congratulation, that is the position of the Turkish state and Abdullah Gul and it must be clarified,” the official, Novruz Mammadov, was quoted by the Trend news agency as saying.
For his part, Mubariz Gurbanli, the deputy executive secretary of Aliyev’s ruling Yeni Azerbaycan Party, said that the “hasty congratulation” amounted to a show of “moral, political and ideological support” for Sarkisian, according to an APA news agency report cited by Day.az. Another pro-government lawmaker, Zahid Oruj, denounced Gul’s move as “irrational.”
Azerbaijan has fiercely opposed any attempts to improve Turkey’s strained relations with Armenia, saying that would strengthen the Armenian side’s hand in the unresolved Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. An uproar from Baku was apparently instrumental in Ankara’s decision not to unconditionally implement U.S.-brokered normalization agreements signed with Yerevan in 2009. The agreements were the result of an unprecedented Turkish-Armenian rapprochement initiated by Sarkisian and Gul.
Gul already congratulated Sarkisian when the latter was first elected president in 2008. The two leaders have also sent each other congratulatory messages in connection with Turkish and Armenian national holidays.