Turkish FM: Azerbaijan's interests not to be neglected (UPDATE)
Editor's Note: Turkish FM's words and background added after second paragraph
Turkey will never neglect Azerbaijan's interests in the process of normalizing ties with Armenia, the Cihan news agency quoted Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu as saying today.
"Turkey will continue to provide unwavering support for Azerbaijan, with which we have always had special relations," he said, underscoring that the Turkish government's position on normalizing ties with Armenia remains unchanged.
Davutoglu added that signing the protocols to normalize ties with Armenia was an important step toward establishing peace and stability in the South Caucasus, but is still not enough.
"It is necessary to resolve the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan to ensure lasting peace and stability," he said. "The normalization of Turkish-Armenian relations is not enough in this context."
Davutoglu and Armenian FM Edward Nalbandian signed protocols in Zurich Oct. 10 in an effort to normalize bilateral relations between the two countries. Ties have been severed since 1993. The protocols must be ratified by the parliaments of both countries to enter into force.
The Turkish government underscored that relations between Ankara and Yerevan will only be restored after Armenia liberates Azerbaijani occupied territories.
The conflict between the two South Caucasus countries began in 1988 when Armenia made territorial claims against Azerbaijan. Armenian armed forces have occupied 20 percent of Azerbaijan since 1992, including the Nagorno-Karabakh region and seven surrounding districts. Azerbaijan and Armenia signed a ceasefire agreement in 1994.
The co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group - Russia, France, and the United States - are currently holding the peace negotiations.
Davutoglu stressed that stabilizing the South Caucasus is a major priority for Ankara.
"Current political conflicts in the South Caucasus pose obstacles to peace and stability, and are a constant threat to regional countries, including Turkey," he said.
In April, Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan signed a decree suspending the ratification of the protocols.