Baku ready to hold talks on Karabakh with Yerevan

Baku ready to hold talks on Karabakh with Yerevan

ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News
Baku ready to hold talks on Karabakh with Yerevan

Armenia must take the initial confidence-building measure of withdrawing from occupied territory preparatory to a resumption of talks on Karabakh, says Azimov. DAILY NEWS photo, Selahattin SÖNMEZ

Azerbaijan is willing to resume talks under the Chairmanship of the OSCE Minsk Group in a bid to find a political solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict with Armenia. However, Baku has insisted on seeing “practical steps” toward a peace plan which would map out Armenia’s withdrawal from occupied regions in order to proceed with negotiation talks.

The Minsk Group’s co-chairing countries are seeking grounds for a new round of talks in mid-May, Azerbaijani deputy foreign minister Araz Azimov, told Hürriyet Daily News on April 29, ahead of his meeting with Fatih Ceylan, deputy undersecretary of the Turkish Foreign Ministry.

Both Turkey and Azerbaijan were uncomfortable with stalled peace negotiations over Nagorno-Karabakh, he said, but his country was suspicious about Armenia’s intention to end occupation.

“We should see Armenia’s will to end occupation. The first steps of confidence-building measures must be withdrawal from occupied regions,” he noted.

Disappoinment over charter flights

The Azerbaijani diplomat underlined that Armenia’s insistence on occupying Azerbaijan lands first and foremost harmed the country itself, since Yerevan was ousted from regional cooperation between Turkey, Georgia and Azerbaijan. Before occupation, Armenia’s population was 3 million, now it has decreased to 1.5 million, mostly due to poverty, he added.

When reminded of speculations that Baku was disappointed when Turkish President Abdullah Gül sent a congratulatory letter to Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan on his re-election, Azimov said Gül’s move was “just a diplomatic step,” but Turkish president “could have waited more before sending that message.”

“He acted early,” Azimov said, referring to the fact that even some circles in Armenia objected to the election results. “But, those issues cannot influence Turkish-Azerbaijani ties,” he added.

The Azerbaijani diplomat did not hide his disappointment over an attempt to launch charter flights between Yerevan and the southeastern Turkish city of Van, which was suspended allegedly over the unease of Baku.

Azimov stressed that relations between the two countries were above all those issues, but added that if Turkey had taken such a step it “would be out of concept.”

He underlined that Turkey and Azerbaijan should put pressure on Armenia in both economic and political terms, so that Yerevan would act in line with “legitimacy,” which he defines as withdrawal from occupied Azerbaijani soil. “In good relations, Turkey and Azerbaijan sincerely discuss any issues of disappointment and satisfaction,” he noted.

Asked about Azerbaijan’s state oil company SOCAR’s recent acquisition of Turkey’s Star Media Group, Azimov said such developments demonstrated stronger relations and diversifications between the two countries.

He cited the importance of media in shaping public opinion, and added that SOCAR’S ownership would lead Turkish and Azerbaijani people to become closer. “Media is one of the main actors that shape public opinion, maybe the most effective one nowadays. And media in Turkey has been substantially developed.”

An Azerbaijani company investing in Turkish media is an indication of enhanced bilateral relations, and the variety of those ties, Azimov said.

Previously, Turkey had ownership in his country, but from now on Azerbaijan will also have possessions in Turkey, Azimov said, adding this ownership would not remain merely limited to the oil sector such as TANAP, but would be extended. Both countries having capital within the other would contribute to enhancing ties between Turkey and Azerbaijan, he concluded.