It's time for peace in Caucasus, Turkish foreign minister says

It's time for peace in Caucasus, Turkish foreign minister says

ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News
Its time for peace in Caucasus, Turkish foreign minister says

Davutoğlu (C) said bilateral concerns should not interfere with global meetings. AA photo

Turkey is stepping up its efforts in bringing peace and stability in the Caucasus region, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu stated yesterday, saying: “It’s time for peace in the Caucasus.”

During a presentation at the Parliament’s Budget and Planning Commission where his ministry’s budget for 2014 was debated, the minister said they discussed efforts to revive the Minsk process with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry during his recent visit to Washington and would have talks on the issue during their visit to Russia. Later in the day, Davutoğlu was scheduled to depart for St. Petersburg in order to accompany Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who will co-chair a Turkey-Russia High-Level Cooperation Council, along with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The OSCE’s so-called Minsk Group has been spearheading attempts to negotiate a solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict between Baku and Yerevan. U.S., Russia and France are the co-chairs of the group.

Davutoğlu stressed the normalization of relations between Turkey and Armenia would be maintained in parallel to steps regarding the Nagorno-Karabakh settlement. 

Elaborating on his invitation to Armenia for a meeting of the Organization of Black Sea Economic Cooperation (BSEC) in Yerevan, the minister said bilateral problems between the states are not obstacles to participate in such meetings. He recalled that even Azerbaijan, which has vital problems with Armenia, has been acceding to such invitations from Armenia. 

Yet, although not excluding the idea of participating in a Yerevan meeting, he will make his final decision according to the overlapping schedule of a visit by German President Joachim Gauck to Turkey on the very same day, a Turkish diplomat told Hürriyet Daily News. 

Syria debate

Opposition parties, meanwhile, harshly criticized Turkey’s foreign policy on Syria, with the main opposition Republican People’s Party’s (CHP) Aytuğ Atıcı having challenged Davutoglu’s argument of the “humanitarian aspect” of Turkish foreign policy.

Atıcı accused the government of turning a blind eye to the transfer of arms to the Syrian opposition through Turkish territory.

“You do the same as what al-Assad does to his people. The Turkish state shoots fire at its people, al-Assad does too. The sole difference is numbers. He killed thousands; in our country seven were killed... Was it al-Assad that killed those in Gezi?” Atıcı asked, referring to the six protesters and one police officer who lost their lives during the anti-government protests during the Gezi Park unrest.

The tension in the meeting has risen as opposition party deputies harshly criticized Davutoğlu on the issue of the al-Nusra Front in Syria. 

CHP Deputy Chair Faruk Loğoğlu also criticized Davutoğlu about Turkey’s stance on the al-Qaeda-affiliated al-Nusra Front in Syria. “Although we have asked again and again, you did not designate al-Nusra as a terrorist organization,” he said. 

Davutoğlu, answering the opposition lawmaker’s questions, reacted to the accusations about al-Qaeda and reproached the “claims having sympathy” for the group. “There cannot be a larger defamation than affiliating a Turkish foreign minister with al-Qaeda,” Davutoğlu said, adding Turkey rejects all “terrorist organizations including al-Qaeda.”