Azerbaijan will help Turkey deny in the international arena that the 1915 mass killings of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire constituted genocide, President Ilham Aliyev said on Wednesday after talks with his visiting Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
“Turkey and Azerbaijan will jointly counter the lie about the genocide of Armenians,” Aliyev was reported to tell journalists in the presidential palace in Baku.
“We will be coordinating our efforts to expose the fictional Armenian genocide. Our non-governmental and Diaspora organizations will be acting together,” he said.
The remarks came one week after Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian formally invited Erdogan to visit Armenia next April and attend official commemorations of the 100th anniversary of the Armenian genocide. Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian handed the newly elected Turkish president a corresponding letter from Sarkisian during his inauguration in Ankara. Nalbandian said on his return to Yerevan that Erdogan did not immediately accept or turn down the invitation.
News reports from Baku suggest that Erdogan did not mention the genocide issue in his statement to the press made after talks with Aliyev. Nor did he echo Aliyev’s calls for jointly countering “Armenian lies and slander.”
According to Azerbaijani news agencies, Erdogan, who had angrily denied the Armenian genocide in the past, cited instead the unresolved Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. “We discussed further steps in this direction,” he said without elaborating.
The Turkish leader was reported to assure Aliyev during the talks that Ankara will continue to make the normalization of Turkish-Armenian relations contingent on a Karabakh settlement acceptable to Baku.
Erdogan’s government seemed ready to drop the Karabakh linkage when it embarked on a Western-backed rapprochement with Yerevan in 2008. The two sides signed in 2009 protocols on establishing diplomatic relations and reopening the Turkish-Armenian border. Faced with fierce criticism from Baku, Ankara made clear afterwards that it will not implement the deal as long as the Karabakh dispute remains unresolved.
Erdogan appears to have fuelled fresh Azerbaijani unease when he invited Sarkisian to his inauguration. Turkey’s ambassador to Azerbaijan downplayed the significance of that invitation ahead of the ceremony.
“I want to thank Turkey for supporting Azerbaijan’s just position [on Karabakh,]” Aliyev said on Wednesday.