Making rare visits to Armenia, senior diplomats from Turkey and Azerbaijan attended a regular meeting of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation (BSEC) organization held in Yerevan on Wednesday.
Azerbaijan’s Deputy Foreign Minister Mahmud Mammadguliyev and the head of an economic cooperation department at the Turkish Foreign Ministry, Omer Kucuk, declined to speak to journalists on the sidelines of the meeting chaired by Armenian Foreign Minister Zohrab Mnatsakanian.
Armenian and Azerbaijani officials rarely visit each other’s capitals due to the unresolved Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Mutual visits by Armenian and Turkish officials are also rare.
Mammadguliyev has participated in international gatherings in Yerevan on at least three occasions in the past. No other representative of the Azerbaijani government is known to have paid more visits to Armenia.
The BSEC is a loose and largely ineffectual grouping of eleven countries, including Russia, and Turkey. The latter refuses to establish diplomatic relations and open its border with Armenia despite the BSEC’s main declared mission: to promote economic cooperation among the member states.
Speaking after the meeting, Armenian Deputy Foreign Minister Karen Nazarian criticized what he called attempts to “politicize the work of the organization.” “The BSEC is a regional economic structure,” he said.
Nazarian referred to Baku’s efforts to get BSEC structures to adopt pro-Azerbaijani statements on the Karabakh conflict.
The BSEC’s Parliamentary Assembly adopted one such statement in Ukraine’s capital Kiev last year in the absence of its members representing Armenia as well as Russia.
The meeting in Yerevan marked the end of Armenia’s latest rotating presidency at the BSEC. It was officially passed on to Azerbaijan.