JEDDAH, Saudi Arabia (RFE/RL)–Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has harshly criticized the United States and other world powers spearheading the Nagorno-Karabakh peace process, saying that they have lacked commitment to broker a peaceful settlement of the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict.
“There has been serious neglect by the Minsk trio,” Erdogan charged in a Sunday evening interview with Turkish state television, referring to the U.S., Russia and France — the three co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group on Karabakh.
“If Russia, the US and France had worked hard within the past 20 years, none of these problems would have emerged; neither the trouble between us and Armenia, nor a trouble between Armenia and Azerbaijan would remain,” he said, according to the Turkish Today’s Zaman daily. “The performance of Russia, America and France has been below expectations,” he added.
Erdogan specifically accused the mediating powers of not putting sufficient pressure on Armenia to end “the occupation of Azerbaijani territory. “The problem will be solved when the occupation ends,” the Azerbaijani Trend news agency quoted him as saying.
The remarks reflected Ankara’s continuing linkage between the normalization of its relations with Yerevan and a Karabakh settlement acceptable to Baku. Erdogan has repeatedly indicated that the Turkish parliament, in which his Justice and Development Party has a clear majority, will not ratify the Turkish-Armenian normalization agreements signed in October unless the Minsk Group efforts yield a breakthrough.
Armenian leaders have rejected this “precondition.” They have also ruled out any Turkish mediation in the Karabakh peace process, saying that Turkey is inherently unfit for that role given its close ties with Azerbaijan.
According to Today’s Zaman, Erdogan also reiterated his government’s claims that a recent ruling by Armenia’s Constitutional Court runs counter to the Turkish-Armenian protocols. Ankara is particularly unhappy with the court’s conclusion that the deal can not stop Armenia seeking broader international recognition of the Armenian genocide.
Yerevan has dismissed the claims as a smokescreen to hide Turkey’s reluctance to unconditionally establish diplomatic relations and open its border with Armenia.
Turkish-Armenian relations were reportedly on the agenda of a Sunday phone conversation between Presidents Abdullah Gul of Turkey and Dmitry Medvedev of Russia. Citing Turkish diplomatic sources, the Hurriyet Daily News reported that Gul raised Ankara’s concerns about the Armenian court ruling with Medvedev and urged Moscow to press Yerevan to address them.
“We need a clarification as to whether the court ruling will shadow or restrict the protocols,” the paper quoted Gul as saying. It said he also called on Russia to step up the search for Karabakh peace.
Erdogan similarly tried to get the Russians to seek greater Armenian concessions to Azerbaijan for the sake of the Turkish-Armenian normalization when he visited Moscow last month. However, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin publicly told him to drop the linkage between what Moscow considers two separate processes. Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian was quick to hail that stance.