BAKU (RFE/RL)–Turkey will not upset Azerbaijan in its efforts to normalize relations with Armenia, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu was reported to insist late Tuesday during talks with Turkish opposition leaders concerned about Ankara’s ongoing rapprochement with Yerevan.
Davutoglu met with the leaders of three opposition parties as part of “internal political consultations” which the Armenia and Turkish governments have pledged to conduct before signing two fence-mending agreements next month. The agreements, made public on August 31, envisage the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two neighboring states and reopening of their border.
“We won’t take a step which will sadden our Azerbaijani brothers,” “Today’s Zaman” daily quoted Davutoglu as telling the party leaders. “They are being informed of the entire process imminently and it will go on as before.”
Azerbaijan was quick to warn after the publication of the draft agreements that the reopening of the Turkish-Armenian border before a resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict would run counter to its national interests. The Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry recalled in that regard Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s recent statements making border opening contingent on a Karabakh settlement.
Like international mediators, Erdogan’s government hopes that the presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan will achieve a breakthrough at their next meeting due early next month. The meeting would take place just one week before President Serzh Sarkisian’s anticipated October 14 visit to Turkey. The Turkish-Armenian draft protocols could be signed during the trip.
Some analysts in Armenia and Turkey say that the Turkish parliament, in which Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party holds a solid majority, is unlikely to ratify the protocols if Baku and Yerevan fail to cut a framework peace deal in the coming months. According to Turkish media, all three opposition leaders visited by Davutoglu criticized the documents and demanded that Ankara stick to its long-standing linkage between Turkish-Armenian relations and Karabakh peace.
“There are no signs of ending the occupation in Nagorno-Karabakh and recognizing the Kars Agreement [which defines the eastern Turkish border,]” Deniz Baykal of the main opposition People’s Republican Party said, according to “Hurriyet Daily News.” Baykal also deplored a lack of specifics in the two governments’ plans to set up a joint body that would look into the World War One-era Armenian massacres in the Ottoman Empire.
“Turkey must not open the border gate unless Armenia withdraws from the occupied lands of Nagorno-Karabakh,” agreed Numan Kurtulmus of the Islamist Felicity Party. “In order to make new friendships and gain credit in the international scene, we don’t have the right to upset our Azerbaijani brothers.”
Davutoglu was scheduled to meet on Wednesday with the leaders of two other Turkish parties that won more than 1 percent of the vote in the July 2007 general elections.