ANKARA (Today’s Zaman)–One of the three diplomats heading international efforts to mediate a solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict was in Ankara on Monday for talks on the Karabakh peace process with the country’s Undersecretary of Foreign Affairs, reported the Turkish Today’s Zaman newspaper.
Ambassador Bernard Fassier of France met with Foreign Ministry Undersecretary Ertugrul Apaka, who sought to convey his country’s ongoing support for the OSCE Minsk Group, the international body mediating between Armenia and Azerbaijan for a resolution to the Karabakh conflict.
“There have recently been many visits from Turkey to Azerbaijan.” Fassier said at a press conference in Baku Saturday before flying to Ankara. “We will discuss them.”
Fassier and his Russian and US counterparts co-chairing the Minsk Group met with the Presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan in Prague on May 7 for what they later called constructive and positive talks.
According to Zaman, which cited anonymous sources “close to the talks,” Monday’s meeting between Apakan and Fassier focused on “exchanging views” on the current stages of the Karabakh peace talks following the Prague meeting between President’s Serzh Sarkisian of Armenia and Ilham Aliyev of Azerbaijan.
“During the meeting with Fassier, the Turkish side reiterated its continued support of the OSCE Minsk Group as a permanent member involved in the peace process since its inception, the unnamed source was quoted by Zaman as saying.
Fassier’s visit to Ankara comes as Turkey, a non-actor in the Karabakh conflict, has sought to boost its role in the peace process, conditioning the normalization of its relations with Armenia on a resolution to the Karabakh conflict.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan explicitly reaffirmed that linkage during his visit to Azerbaijan last week. He traveled to Russia on May 16 where he sought a greater role for his country in the Karabakh negotiation process in talks with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.
Armenia has criticized Erdogan for making the normalization of Turkish-Armenian relations conditional on a Nagorno-Karabakh settlement, saying that such statements could hamper both the Armenian-Azerbaijani, as well as the Armenian-Turkish negotiations.
President Serzh Sarkisian and Foreign Minister Eduard Nalbandian reacted to Erdogan’s statements as they separately met in Yerevan with Brian Fall, Britain’s special representative for the South Caucasus.
In a written statement Sarkisian said that “any Turkish attempt to interfere in the settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh problem can only harm that process.” While Nalbanidan, in a separate statement said Erdogan’s stance “precludes further progress in the ongoing Turkish-Armenian fence-mending negotiations.”
Fassier echoed those points when speaking to reporters in Azerbaijan on Sunday. “The normalization of Armenia-Turkey relations should not be confused with the Karabakh conflict,” the French diplomat said in Baku. “These are different and parallel processes.”