Azerbaijani opposition leaders urge Ankara not to open borders with Armenia

Politics Materials 8 April 2009 14:20 (UTC +04:00)
Azerbaijani opposition leaders urge Ankara not to open borders with Armenia

Azerbaijan, Baku, April 8 / Trend , A. Huseynbala/

Azerbaijani opposition leaders say Ankara must not open borders with Armenia despite international pressure.

"All political circles of Azerbaijan should make a joint address to the Turkish authorities and political organizations to prevent possible opening of borders. Both Azerbaijani government and opposition share the same views," Azerbaijan National Independence Party (ANIP) leader Etibar Mammadov told Trend on April 8. 

Different circles in Turkey claim Turkey-Armenia borders will be opened.

Armenian-Turkish ties have been severed since 1993 due to Armenia's claims of an alleged genocide, and the country's occupation of 20 percent of Azerbaijani lands.

Turkish President Abdullah Gul visited Yerevan on Sept. 6, 2008 upon the invitation of his Armenian counterpart Serzh Sargsyan to watch an Armenia-Turkey football match.

Efforts have been made to normalize ties between the two countries ever since.

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 7 surrounding districts. Azerbaijan and Armenia signed a ceasefire agreement in 1994. The co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group - Russia, France, and the U.S. - are currently holding the peace negotiations.

Mammadov said previous Turkish governments were also put pressure to open borders. But they did not surrender and supported Azerbaijan. 

He said the Turkey ruling AK Party has surrendered on numerous cases.

"The same steps were taken regarding the North Cyprus. The next stage is linked with Azerbaijan and Turkey. Turkey has already prepared for opening of borders. Simply they want to put pressure on the Azerbaijani government to condone with it. If Turkey, which is Azerbaijan's only ally regarding the conflict with Armenia, surrenders and borders are opened, Armenia will develop at a fast pace," Mammadov said.

ANIP, founded in 1992, is the first officially registered political party in Azerbaijan. Etibar Mammadov was the founder and chairman of the party until 2004. At present, Mammadov is the deputy chairman of the International Democratic Society.

"Turkey has always been a close state for Azerbaijan. Therefore opening of borders will surprise everybody," National Unity Movement (NUM) leader Lala Shovkat told Trend .

She said Turkey has always supported Azerbaijan both during a war and peace talks on the resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

Turkey is more likely willing to open borders under pressure, she added.

"Admittedly, Turkey has been seeking EU membership for many years. The EU demands Turkey to open borders with Armenia. Therefore this issue assumed importance once again," she said.

She said she does not believe Turkey will open borders soon. "I think this issue was put on agenda in a bid to learn the public opinion. Of course, Turkey's opening borders with Armenia will be to the detriment of Azerbaijan," Shovkat said.

Azerbaijan Liberal Party was founded by Lala Shovkat in 1996. She is co-founder and co-chair of the opposition Azadlig bloc. 

Shovkat was secretary of state from July 1993 to spring of 1994.

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