ANKARA (RFE/RL)–The normalization of Turkish-Armenian relations remains conditional on a Nagorno-Karabakh conflict settlement acceptable to Azerbaijan, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan reportedly said after this week’s high-profile visit to Russia.
“The process of normalizing Turkish-Armenian relations and the resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh problem are interconnected. These processes may be going on separately, but they are interconnected behind the scenes,” Erdogan told journalists on his way back from Moscow, according to a “Hurriyet” newspaper report cited by Azerbaijani media.
“Once the problem between Armenia and Azerbaijan is resolved, once the occupation of Nagorno-Karabakh ends, the Turkish-Armenian issue will find a solution,” he said. “If Armenia has good intentions let it prove them by starting the liberation of the districts around Nagorno-Karabakh.”
A senior Turkish lawmaker clarified on Friday that Turkey’s parliament will not even debate the ratification of the two “protocols” signed with Armenia in October in the coming weeks. The Anatolia news agency quoted Murat Mercan, chairman of the parliament’s foreign relations committee, as saying, “We are all eager to bring the protocols to the committee and the parliamentary floor, and we do want to see relations get normal, but at this time it would be useless to debate the issue which is highly likely to be revoked by the committee.”
Mercan is a member of Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party, which has a clear majority in the Turkish Grand National Assembly.
Armenian leaders have repeatedly rejected the Turkish precondition, arguing that neither protocol makes any reference to the Armenian-Azerbaijani dispute. The United States, the European Union and Russia have also voiced support for an unconditional and speedy implementation of the Turkish-Armenian agreements.
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin publicly urged Ankara to drop the Karabakh linkage at a joint news conference with Erdogan on Wednesday. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov stood by that call during a visit to Yerevan on Thursday.
Erdogan signaled his disappointment with the Russian position as he flew back to Ankara. He said Moscow can speed up a Karabakh settlement by putting pressure on Armenia, a Russian ally. “If Russia falls back on this issue, achieving a result will become more difficult,” he said.