BAKU (APA)–Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu was in the Azeri capital Baku on Thursday meeting with President Ilham Aliyev and Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov to reiterate his government’s intention to use accords signed with Armenia to pursue a pro-Azeri solution for the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
“We openly declare to Azerbaijani society that the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan is as precious to us as that of Turkey’s,” Davutoglu said Thursday in an interview with the Azeri Press Agency, adding that Turkey considers the Nagorno Karabakh Republic as an occupied territory of Azerbaijani and will continue to “struggle” to return it to Baku’s control.
Davutoglu, who was also in Baku to attend a meeting of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation Council, sought to allay concerns in Azerbaijan that Turkey’s rapprochement with Armenia would weaken Baku’s position in the Karabakh peace process. He argued instead that Turkey’s push to normalize ties with Armenia has allowed Ankara to “revive” the negotiations and “break the deadlock” between Armenia and Azerbaijan in Baku’s favor.
“We consider the occupied Azerbaijani lands our lands and will continue our struggle to release them. We think that these protocols will give an impetus to this process,” Davutoglu said, adding that Turkey will continue to use every diplomatic opportunity to push forward its agenda in the Karabakh peace process.
“At a meeting with President Obama the first question that we raised was Karabakh. The first question was Karabakh again at my recent meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Turkey will always raise this issue, in spite of everything,” Davutoglu said, adding that a Foreign Ministry representative will be attending the meeting of the Minsk Group in Vienna on Friday to discuss the conflict.
“The representative of our [Foreign] ministry Unal Cevikoz is attending the meeting of the Minsk Group in Vienna,” Davutoglu said, adding that
“Even if Azerbaijan does not put the Karabakh problem for discussion, Turkey will do it everywhere” he added. “This is one of our national problems. We do not discriminate between Azerbaijani and Turkish lands, Azerbaijani and Turkish flags.”
Davutoglu also referred to recent media reports about a Turkish and OSCE Minsk Group delegation that traveled to Karabakh to map out a possible corridor linking Armenia and Karabakh through the Kashatagh (Lachin) district.
“Thanks to the enthusiasm of Turkey, the presidents of Azerbaijan and Armenia have held five meetings in the last five months,” Davutoglu said, reiterating assurances that Turkey “will fight for the liberation of Azerbaijan’s lands” in the negotiations process.
Davutoglu added that during the period it’s been involved in the Karabakh process, Turkey has made greater strides in resolving the conflict than any other actor. He attributed that success to Turkey’s initiative to establish a Stability and Cooperation Platform in the Caucasus after the August 2008 war between Georgia and Russia.
“In 18 years of occupation we have done and will do everything to liberate the occupied territories of Azerbaijan,” Davutoglu said.” Both previous and the current government of Turkey will never change its policy on Karabakh, nothing will harm our unity, and will not change strategy on this matter in Turkey.”
Davutoglu was in Baku to attend a meeting of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation Organization. While in the Azeri capital he also met with President Ilham Aliyev and Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov.
Describing his talks with Mammadyarov as “a meeting between two brothers,” Davutoglu said the two had a “sincere and open dialogue” about their relations and regional politics and recalled his last meetings in Azerbaijan ahead of the signing of the protocols. “President Abdullah Gul and I were in Nakhchivan a week before the protocols were signed in Zurich. We met with President Aliyev and Elmar Mammadyarov there. There could be little discords between two brothers, but we had open and sincere talks,” Davutoglu recalled, adding that Turkey sees Azerbaijan as an extension of itself.