Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu reaffirmed Turkey’s strong support for Azerbaijan and criticized the U.S., Russian and French mediators for failing to end the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict during a visit to Baku on Friday.
Cavusoglu held talks with the leaders of Turkey’s closest regional ally as Ankara and Moscow continued to trade bitter accusations over this week’s downing by a Turkish fighter of a Russian warplane near the Turkish-Syrian border. It was not clear whether the trip was connected with the sharp deterioration of Russian-Turkish relations.
News reports from Baku said Cavusoglu discussed the Syrian incident with President Ilham Aliyev and other senior Azerbaijani officials. Aliyev told him that he “regrets” the Russian-Turkish tensions and expressed readiness to help defuse them.
Aliyev’s office reported no other details of that discussion. It also quoted him as saying that “Azerbaijan and Turkey are the closest countries in the world.”
The Karabakh conflict was also on the agenda of the talks. “We support Azerbaijan on the Karabakh issue and on the issue of return of the occupied Azerbaijani lands,” Cavusoglu told a joint news conference with his Azerbaijani counterpart, Elmar Mammadyarov.
According to the APA news agency, the Turkish minister said that the U.S., Russian and French co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group should come up with “new proposals” on resolving the dispute. “We are trying to stimulate the work of the Minsk Group through constructive criticism,” he said.
Azerbaijani leaders regularly criticize the mediating powers for not pressing for a peace deal that would restore Azerbaijan’s control over Karabakh and Armenian-controlled territories surrounding it.
The mediators are currently trying to arrange a meeting of Aliyev and Armenia’s President Serzh Sarkisian which they hope will kick-start the stalled peace process. Mammadyarov said that they are still “working” on the summit expected in December.
Cavusoglu also announced on Friday that Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu will visit Baku next week. Davutoglu reportedly said on Wednesday that the “liberation of the occupied territories of Azerbaijan” remains a Turkish foreign policy priority.
The fallout from the downing of the Russian Su-24 bomber has raised fears in Yerevan that Armenia could be drawn into the Russia-Turkey confrontation if it escalates further. Armenia hosts a Russian military base deployed along its closed border with Turkey.
The Armenian civil aviation authority accused Turkish military helicopters of twice violating Armenia’s airspace in early October, just days after Russian warplanes strayed into Turkish territory from Syria. Yerevan chose not to lodge formal protests with Ankara.
Armenian leaders believe that the Russian military presence precludes Turkey’s direct military intervention in the Karabakh conflict.
Turkish-Azerbaijani military cooperation has intensified in the last few years, with Ankara helping Baku with weapons and personnel training and holding joint military exercises on a regular basis. The chief of the Turkish General Staff, General Hulusi Akar, promised continued aid to the Azerbaijani military when he visited Baku in early October.