Turkey’s role in the settlement of the decades-long Nagorno-Karabakh conflict between Turkey’s closest ally, Azerbaijan, and its estranged neighbor Armenia is very important, an Azerbaijani official has said, pointing out that the solution of the Nagorno-Karabakh should predate the opening of the Turkish-Armenian border.
“Reconciliation and the opening of borders between Turkey and Armenia can be a subject of discussion only after the settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict,” Orkhan Akbarov, the newly appointed chair of the Azerbaijani Community of Nagorno-Karabakh Coordination Council, said in an interview with Sunday’s Zaman.
Commenting on Turkey’s firm stance in the process of settling the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, Akbarov said that Turkey taking a stand in not opening the Turkish-Armenian border already proves Turkey’s position and its support for brother country Azerbaijan.
Turkey and Azerbaijan are considered “brotherly countries” due to their ethnic kinship, a fact that led Turkey to close its border with Armenia in 1993 in solidarity with Azerbaijan after Armenian armed forces occupied territories of Azerbaijan one year earlier.
“Turkey’s continuing support for Azerbaijan and its consistent statements that it regards settling the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict as a precondition for the revival of diplomatic relations between Turkey and Armenia makes Turkey’s position clear,” Akbarov said, expressing his belief that Turkey will continue to support Azerbaijan on the Nagorno-Karabakh issue.
Armenia, which started a war with Azerbaijan during the breakup of the Soviet Union and occupied 20 percent of Azerbaijani territory, including Nagorno-Karabakh and seven adjacent provinces, argues that Turkey has no say in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict as it is not one of the sides to the conflict. However, Turkey has always backed Azerbaijan on the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute, declaring itself to be on Azerbaijan’s side and standing by Azerbaijan in Azerbaijan’s legitimate and constructive position in the settlement of the conflict.
Nagorno-Karabakh, an enclave located within Azerbaijan predominantly populated by ethnic Armenians, together with seven Azeri-populated adjacent territories, was occupied by Armenian forces under the command of current Armenian President Serzh Sarksyan in a bloody six-year war (1988-1994), leaving 30,000 dead and nearly a million displaced. Since then, negotiations to resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict have been continuing under the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Minsk Group, established in 1992. The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict however remains stalemated as there has been no progress in negotiations. The talks under the OSCE Minsk Group have yet to yield any results, as both Azerbaijan and Armenia insist on conditions that are not acceptable to the other. Armenia demands the independence of Nagorno-Karabakh and refuses to withdraw its troops from the occupied territories before ensuring the full sovereignty of the region. Meanwhile, Azerbaijan insists on the upholding of its territorial integrity, promising it will be open to discussion as well as determination of the status of Nagorno-Karabakh after the withdrawal the troops from its territories.
Commenting on the stalemate, Akbarov accuses Russia and France of not being willing parties in settling the conflict. “As Russia does not approach the settlement process constructively and France maintains a pro-Armenian stance in the negotiations, the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict remains unsettled for the time being,” Akbarov said, adding that Turkey’s inclusion as a co-chair of the OSCE Minsk Group would be important. “To have a balance in the [OSCE Minsk] group is necessary and I think, if the member countries come together to cooperate with Turkey as co-chair of the group, it will help the Nagorno-Karabakh to find its best solution ever,” Akbarov said, underlining that Turkey’s inclusion in the Minsk Group would lead to a peaceful solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict being finally found.
Nagorno-Karabakh peace talks have been conducted under the auspices of the OSCE Minsk Group, co-chaired by the US, France and Russia.