By Emil Danielyan
Turkish President Abdullah Gul will fly to Baku on Wednesday to discuss with Azerbaijani officials implications of his historic visit to Armenia that has raised more hopes for a Turkish-Armenian rapprochement.
According to the Associated Press news agency, a spokesman for Gul said Tuesday the president will return to Ankara on Wednesday evening after meeting with his Azerbaijani counterpart Ilham Aliev. The official said the meeting will focus on Gul’s Saturday talks in Yerevan with Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian.
Turkey has closed cultural and ethnic affinity with Azerbaijan and has lent the latter full and unconditional support in its protracted conflict with Armenia over Nagorno-Karabakh. Ankara refused to establish diplomatic relations with Yerevan and closed the Turkish-Armenian border in 1993 out of solidarity with its Turkic ally.
Gul’s decision to accept Sarkisian’s invitation to visit Yerevan and watch Saturday’s football game between Armenia’s and Turkey’s national team sparked unease in Azerbaijan over a possible change in the Turkish policy. Some pro-government politicians, pundits and media there openly criticized the move, accusing Ankara of improving ties with Yerevan at the expense of Azerbaijan’s national interests. Gul’s trip to Baku may well be intended to allay such fears.
In a Monday interview with RFE/RL’s Azerbaijani service, Gul reiterated his satisfaction with the results of his meeting with Sarkisian that was followed by more substantive talks between the Turkish and Armenian foreign ministers. "Now, in the Caucasus, the stones have been moved and we are also making an effort and we are making our move,” he said. “And, God willing, it will bring results. If we get results then we will all be happy.”
Gul added that regional peace and stability requires a resolution of Turkey’s and Azerbaijan’s bitter disputes with Armenia. “Peace and stability will serve everyone's interest,” he said. “But to have [peace and stability] we need a resolution.
“The problems between Turkey and Armenia and the problems between Azerbaijan and Armenia are not just bilateral issues. These are problems for the whole region."
Gul also reaffirmed his support for the peace process between Azerbaijan and Armenia, but noted that the OSCE Minsk Group, has "failed to achieve important results." But he would not say if Ankara continues to regard a Karabakh settlement as a precondition for normalizing ties with Yerevan.
The Turkish and Armenian foreign ministers will meet on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York later this month to try to build on progress reportedly made by the two sides in Yerevan. “We want this positive momentum to continue,” a Turkish diplomat was quoted by “The Turkish Daily News” as saying.
The paper also cited on Tuesday an opinion poll that shows almost 70 percent of Turks consider Gul’s Yerevan visit to have been “positive.” Nearly two-thirds of those polled voiced support for improving Turkey’s relations with Armenia.