Baku urges Ankara not to repeat 2009 ‘mistake’

Baku urges Ankara not to repeat 2009 ‘mistake’

ANKARA – Hürriyet Daily News
Baku urges Ankara not to repeat 2009 ‘mistake’

DAILY NEWS photo, Selahattin SÖNMEZ

A senior Azeri official has urged Turkey not to repeat the 2009 “mistake” of attempting to open borders with Armenia before the country withdraws from occupied Azeri lands, underlining that they are suspicious of similar efforts to revive the stalled process between Ankara and Yerevan.

“There are such attempts [for the revival of the Ankara-Yerevan process] these days. I am hopeful and sure that the Turkish leadership will not take steps contrary to the will of Azerbaijan and the Azerbaijani people,” Novroz Mammadov, chief of the foreign relations department of the Azerbaijani Presidency, told the Hürriyet Daily News in an interview on Sept. 19.

Without further elaborating on what these attempts were, Mammadov said he was talking about “possibilities” rather than concrete moves. Approached by the Daily News, Turkish diplomatic sources said there were no intentions for the revival of the reconciliation process and that Turkey’s position vis-à-vis the Nagorno-Karabkh issue had not changed.

“A step was taken in 2009. An agreement was signed between Turkey and Armenia under the monitoring of six foreign ministers. It was not possible to implement this agreement because it was unfair,” he said. “We do not want it to occur a second time.”

Turkey and Armenia signed two protocols in 2009 but neither side succeed in bringing them before their Parliament for ratification and implementation. Turkey stopped the process because of a fierce reaction from Azerbaijan, 20 percent of whose territory is still under the occupation of Armenian troops.

“We are grateful for Turkey’s support to Azerbaijan with regard to the Nagorno-Karabakh problem. We are regretful because of the failure of the international community’s efforts to resolve the problem since the early 1990s,” he said.

President İlham Aliyev’s adviser underlined that Baku was not in fact against Turkey opening its borders with Armenia but that such a move should follow a step taken by Yerevan with regard to Nagorno-Karabakh.

“Turkey sealed its borders and cut diplomatic ties with Armenia after this country occupied our territories and the U.N. Security Council’s resolution on this occupation. We’ll have no objection to Turkey if it says it will move forward with Armenia on condition of ending this occupation,” Mammadov said, in reference to the withdrawal of Armenian troops from the regions surrounding Karabakh.

There are seven regions occupied and, as the Madrid Principles recommends, a gradual withdrawal process from such regions would allow Baku and Yerevan to start political talks for future steps.

“Withdrawal from even three regions would allow the opening of the Turkish-Armenian border and the beginning of Azerbaijan-Armenia relations,” he said.

TANAP a historic deal

Since 2009, Turkey and Azerbaijan have boosted economic, energy and political relations. The most important achievement was the signing of the Trans-Anatolian Pipeline Project (TANAP), aiming to carry Azeri gas to Europe via Turkey.

“Our relations have entered into a new historic phase. The two countries have proven that they can initiate such projects together and take advantage of it,” Mammadov said.

Recalling that Turkey and Azerbaijan were already connected via the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline and the Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum natural gas pipeline, Mammadov said the accomplishment of the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway would add another chain to this strong connection.

“TANAP is the joint project of our two countries. Some other countries have also joined but this project is a success of our countries. Our brotherly relations have arrived at such a point that we can carry out such big projects,” he said.

TANAP will likely cost $7 billion and is expected to send 6 billion cubic meters (CBM) of gas to Turkey and 10 billion cbm to Europe by 2018.

$17 billion Azeri investment

The Azeri diplomat forecast that total Azeri investment into Turkey would reach around $17 billion by 2020, which would make Baku the biggest foreign investing country in Turkey. So far, the State Oil Company of the Azerbaijan Republic (SOCAR) has initiated the Petkim Star Refinery, the Petkim Container Port, the Step Power Plant and the TANAP project. TANAP will be followed by the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) project to carry Azeri natural gas to Greece and Italy.

“These projects will make our relations much more important and will give an additional impetus to our ties,” he said.