Armenia and Turkey have accused each other of seeking to destabilize the South Caucasus in a continuing war of words over the latest deadly clashes on the Armenian-Azerbaijani border.
Turkey was quick to blame Armenia for the fighting, which broke out at a volatile border section on Sunday, and reaffirm Turkish support for Azerbaijan. The Armenian government denounced Ankara’s “provocative attitude” on Monday.
On Tuesday Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan added his voice to the Turkish criticism of Yerevan while his defense minister, Hulusi Akar, vowed continued military assistance to Baku.
The Armenian Foreign Ministry responded by issuing on Wednesday another, more strongly-worded statement that branded Turkey a “security threat to Armenia and the region.”
“Invoking its ‘historical mission’ and ethnic or religious affiliations, Turkey has already destabilized the situation in a number of neighboring regions: the Middle East, Eastern Mediterranean and North Africa, causing immeasurable suffering to the peoples of those regions,” said the statement.
The ministry again accused Ankara of undermining international efforts to resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict with its pro-Azerbaijani stance.
“We observe that Armenia now tries to resort to a hypocritical smear campaign against Turkey in an effort to cover up its aggressive actions against Azerbaijan,” the Turkish Foreign Ministry hit back on Thursday.
A ministry statement said Armenia itself prevents the conflict’s resolution by “illegally occupying Azerbaijani territory for many years.” “Armenian authorities need to come to their senses and comprehend, as soon as possible, that they should be part of the solutions, not problems, in the South Caucasus,” it added.
Meeting with Azerbaijan’s visiting Deputy Defense Minister Ramiz Tahirov later on Thursday, Akar said that Armenia will be “brought to account” for its “attack” on Azerbaijan.
“They will be drowned under this plot and certainly pay for what they have done,” “Hurriyet Daily News” quoted the Turkish defense minister as saying. He did not elaborate.
Successive Turkish governments have lent Azerbaijan full support throughout the Karabakh conflict, reflecting close ethnic and cultural ties between the two Turkic nations. They have made the establishment of diplomatic relations with Armenia conditional on a Karabakh settlement acceptable to Baku.
Armenia has always rejected this precondition. It has forged close military ties with Russia to counter what many Armenians see as a serious security threat emanating from Turkey.
From Yerevan’s perspective, the presence of thousands of Russian troops in Armenia precludes Turkey’s direct military intervention in the Karabakh dispute on Azerbaijan’s side.