If Turkey wants to help, it should stay out of the process to solve the Karabakh issue, Armenian Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandyan has said, in response to Turkish officials’ remarks that France should drop its leadership of the Minsk Group, a panel that has been seeking a solution to the political and territorial dispute between Azerbaijan and Armenia for the last two decades.
“If Turkey is sincere in its desire to help the process, it should stay out of it,” Nalbandyan was quoted as telling the Armenian media by the Anka news agency on Monday. Nalbandyan’s words come following remarks from Turkey’s senior officials, led by President Abdullah Gül and Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, that France, after its Senate passed a bill that criminalizes denying the “Armenian genocide,” has lost its impartiality on the matter and should drop its leadership of the Minsk process, led by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).
Turkey closed its border to Armenia in 1993, after Azerbaijan and Armenian dialogue was hit due to the occupation of Karabakh, an Azeri enclave, by Armenian troops. Turkey backs Azerbaijani claims to Nagorno-Karabakh, which today has a large number of ethnic Armenian residents. Azerbaijan claims that most of the region’s Azerbaijani settlers were expatriated during the Armenian invasion of the land. The issue has remained an unsolved dispute for two decades, and the Minsk Group, a multipartite platform that was organized to settle the dispute between Azerbaijan and Armenia over the Nagorno-Karabakh region, has failed to come up with a single concrete step toward solving the problem.
France, a co-chair to the Minsk Group, earlier this month passed a bill in its Senate to criminalize denying or minimizing the number of the killings of Armenians by Ottoman Turks in 1915, and drew harsh reactions from Turkey, which stated that France was accepting one side of the argument and even penalizing the expression of the other’s defense, therefore losing its objectivity on the matter. “There are no negations between Turkey and Armenia, secret or open, direct or indirect,” Nalbandyan stated in response to questions on whether he was expecting Turkey to toughen its already hard stance on opening borders with Armenia, Anka reported. Nalbandyan, however, said that Turkey cannot keep the borders closed forever.
Back in June 2011, Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, labeled the Minsk Group “useless,” while he reiterated Ankara’s well-known position that normalization of relations with Yerevan is tied to resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. The Minsk Group, the three co-chairs of which are France, Russia and the US, has strived to resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. “Unless Azerbaijan and Armenia find a solution to the Karabakh problem, relations between Ankara and Yerevan will not be normalized,” he said in an interview with Azerbaijan’s ANS TV. When Turkey came close to normalizing relations with Armenia in 2008 through a set of protocols, the dragging dispute over Karabakh prevented the solution, although signed by both countries, were never ratified in their parliaments.