Turkish FM: Occupation of Azerbaijani lands impedes cooperation in Caucasus (Updated)
Editor's note: Details were added after the 15th paragraph
The occupation of Azerbaijani lands by Armenia complicated cooperation in the Caucasus on a regional and global scale, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said.
In his article published in the Russia in Global Politics journal, Davutoglu wrote that Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and the occupation of 20 percent of Azerbaijani territory by Armenia impede economic growth and the development of human capital and natural resources.
The progress that has recently been achieved in talks between the presidents of Azerbaijan and Armenia, Ilham Aliyev and Serzh Sargsyan, is important to resolve the conflict, as the mechanism developed by the OSCE Minsk Group has not brought tangible results, he said.
In his article, the Turkish FM said the OSCE Minsk Group is the only international instrument that can induce parties to take steps to overcome differences and reach a peaceful settlement.
Regarding Turkey-Azerbaijan relations, Davutoglu pointed out that the frequent mutual visits and regular dialogue between the two countries are evidence of the importance of the political ties between Ankara and Baku.
"Our economic cooperation is developing steadily. Trade turnover reached $2.5 billion. In addition, Turkey is the leading country in the Azerbaijani economy in terms of foreign investment," the minister added.
Simultaneously, Turkey will not lose hope that it will reestablish relations with Armenia, which still remains a missing link in the whole picture, which Ankara wants to see the South Caucasus.
Turkish and Armenian foreign ministers Ahmet Davutoglu and Edward Nalbandian signed the Ankara-Yerevan protocols in Zurich Oct. 10.
After signing of the protocols, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has repeatedly stated that the further development of relations between the two countries is directly linked to the solution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, despite the absence of the item in the protocols.
Davutoglu named the signing of the Ankara-Yerevan protocols as "an unprecedented step forward towards the elimination of legal and psychological barriers that still separate the two neighboring people."
However, during the dialogue with Yerevan, he said that Turkey has always aware that only Turkish-Armenian reconciliation is not enough to create peace and stability in the South Caucasus.
Therefore, the minister believes, Ankara was convinced that progress in the normalization of relations between Turkey and Armenia should be complemented and developed with concrete steps aimed at resolving the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
"Only with a comprehensive solution, we can maintain the atmosphere of reconciliation and remove the remaining barriers to dialogue, cooperation and peace in the region. This, of course, will require political will and courage," he added.
Turkey will remain an active participant in the peace process in the South Caucasus, despite results of Turkish efforts in the establishment of peace in the region.
Today Ankara and Moscow, as well as Baku, Yerevan and Tbilisi are more than ever keen to change the South Caucasus to a zone of comprehensive peace and firm peace, Davutoglu wrote.
"All are interested in the solution of lingering conflicts and it will strengthen the responsibility of leaders of our countries for the fate of the region. [...] We all want to forget previous hostility and instigate in future positive aspects of common history. This is very important that we have common aspiration to build bright future in the South Caucasus," Davutoglu writes.
In his article Davutoglu indicated several ways which Ankara uses in its plans of establishing peace in the Caucasus.
One of them is signing the Turkish-Armenian protocols in Zurich Oct. 10. However, the decision of the Constitution Court of Armenia in connection with injecting changes to protocols has been a sudden obstacle on the way of ratification of protocols.
"If all sides [Turkey and Armenia] take a responsibility and try to contribute in the achievement of comprehensive peace in the South Caucasus, then the Turkish parliament will ratify the protocols in the nearest future, Davutoglu said. This will not only facilitate the rapprochement between the two nations, but also continue the way to the new future and establishment of peace, prosperity and cooperation. In this respect, the urgent need is not to put impediments in the way of establishment of peace and stability under the veil of fictional juridical problems."
The Armenian Constitutional Court approved that the Ankara-Yerevan protocols complied with the Armenian Constitution Jan.12, 2009. However, later the court reported that the creation of a joint commission to study the 1915 events is unnecessary and Armenia will always seek to recognize the genocide.
The Turkey - Russia relations which have grown swiftly over the past 20 years, should be directed at resolution of regional conflicts in the South Caucasus.
"Turkey and Russia hold a historical and moral responsibility for uniting efforts in the establishment of peace, security, stability and prosperity in the South Caucasus, Davutoglu writes. It will be easy for us to fulfill our duty, if we cooperate on the basis of common understanding of problems that we face and ways to solve them."
Well understanding that durable peace and stability in the region is impossible without mutually acceptable solution of conflicts, Turkey offered to establish a new regional forum to facilitate and accelerate search of compromises, which target bringing together leaders of five countries - Azerbaijan, Armenia, Georgia, Russia and Turkey - at a table of talks to resolve regional problems and consolidate confidence.
Initiating the establishment of a platform on stability and cooperation in the Caucasus, Turkey acknowledged that this is not an easy process, because presence of conflicts serve as a pretext for the establishment of such organization, and major obstacle in realizing the idea, Davutoglu noted.
PM Rejep Tayyib Erdogan's "Caucasus platform" initiative was made after August events in Georgia in 2008.
"Well remembering the past failures, Turkey intends to establish an organization which could promote the dialogue, exchange of ideas and strengthening of confidence amongst major players in the region. We believe it will be a long process, but single-stage action. An idea of platform of this type will further create promising alternative to torture and a tool to regulate conflict situations," Davutoglu said.