Turkey pre-empts any exclusion of Baku in Armenia normalization

Türkiye Materials 6 April 2010 12:48 (UTC +04:00)
Ankara believes Azerbaijan is an integral part of a solution to the problem in the Caucasus and says its exclusion from the process is out of the question
Turkey pre-empts any exclusion of Baku in Armenia normalization

Ankara believes Azerbaijan is an integral part of a solution to the problem in the Caucasus and says its exclusion from the process is out of the question, Hurriyet Daily News reported.

With speculation abounding about the Obama administration's alleged quest to neutralize the Azerbaijan factor in the Turkish-Armenian normalization process, Ankara said it is out of the question for Turkey to be involved in any formulation that excludes Baku.

"It is unquestionable for Turkey to leave Azerbaijan out of the cycle in any manner," Foreign Ministry spokesman Burak Özügergin told the Hürriyet Daily News on Monday.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan announced last week he would participate in an international nuclear security summit in Washington on April 12-13, which took him a while to decide after a United States committee passed a resolution labeling the 1915 killings of Armenians as genocide.

But the margins of the summit will see diplomatic traffic between Turkey and Armenia to revive the stalled normalization process. Erdoğan is expected to meet with Armenian President Serge Sarkisian, and Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu does not rule out a meeting with members of the Armenian diaspora. Although diplomats say the program is not yet clear, Erdoğan may meet with U.S. President Barack Obama for brief talks on the Ankara-Yerevan reconciliation before April 24, a day of commemoration for the 1915 events when U.S. presidents deliver an annual message.

Azerbaijan's absence at the summit, however, is strengthening the argument of Washington's so-called plans to eliminate Azerbaijani pressure on Turkey, so that Ankara could take more progressive steps to normalize ties with Yerevan. Turkish diplomatic sources told the Daily News it is up to the host country, namely the United States in this case, to decide which country to invite to the summit. The diplomats added Azerbaijan's non-participation should not be interpreted as Baku's exclusion.

Heads of state and government from more than 40 countries are expected to attend the summit.

"We have not announced the full list of participants to the international summit yet," U.S. Embassy spokesperson Deborah Guido-O'Grady told the Daily News when asked if Baku was invited.

She denied the reports over the alleged U.S. plan to exclude Baku from the Turkish-Armenian rapprochement as "incorrect."

"Azerbaijan and the United States work closely on a wide range of issues, including the Minsk process, as well as with other countries in the region including Turkey and Armenia," stated the spokesperson.

Together with Russia and France, the U.S. co-chairs the Minsk Group of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, or OSCE, which aims to find a settlement for the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Turkey says any solution to the problem will facilitate the Turkish-Armenian relationship, while Armenia opposes the Turkish linkage of normalization in ties to the conflict with Baku.

In a briefing last Monday at the Foreign Press Center in Washington, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg said, "Azerbaijan is a very important partner to the United States. It's a strong force for peace and stability in the Caucasus."

Steinberg said he appreciated Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev's efforts to support the Minsk process.

"We know these are difficult issues for all of the parties concerned and that we need to find creative ways to overcome the differences because, in the long term, deeper integration in the Caucasus, just as we've been discussing in the Balkans, is in the interest of all the region, and we want to see improved ties among all the key countries in the Caucasus along with Turkey. There has been an opportunity to move that forward," he added.

The official also praised the leadership of both Erdoğan and Sarkisian to move forward with the protocols. "We want to support that process. At the same time we move forward on the Minsk process to try to resolve the differences between Armenia and Azerbaijan."