The leaders of Turkey and Azerbaijan revived efforts Wednesday to resolve entangled conflicts in the volatile Caucasus region also involving Armenia.
Turkish President Abdullah Gul hailed Azeri-Armenian talks in Russia last week as "the beginning of a new era", boosting hopes of securing peace and stability in the region.
"Turkey supports this process and hopes that it will continue," Gul said after talks with Azeri counterpart Ilham Aliev. "We have begun to handle the problems in the Caucasus together and with courage."
Hosted by Russian leader Dmitry Medvedev, Aliev and Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian met near Moscow Sunday and signed a joint declaration asserting their desire to find a political settlement to the Nagorny Karabakh conflict.
Aliev voiced hope the talks with Armenia would result in a settlement "through gradual ways" and thanked Turkey for its peace efforts in the Caucasus, which Ankara wants to crown with a regional cooperation pact, involving also Georgia and Russia.
Turkey is eager for progress on the Nagorny Karabakh conflict in the hope of advancing its own reconciliation bid with Armenia, its eastern neighbor with which it has refused to establish diplomatic ties. In a show of support for Azerbaijan, a close ally with which it shares ethnic roots, Turkey shut its border with Armenia in 1993, dealing a heavy economic blow to the impoverished ex-Soviet nation.
Gul became the first Turkish head of state to visit Armenia when he traveled to Yerevan in September to watch a World Cup qualifying football match between the two countries on the invitation of Sarkisian. Turkish officials have said the reconciliation process with Armenia would be advanced mostly through "silent" diplomacy.