Russia, not Turkey, taking sides in Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, says Erdoğan
AP photoTurkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on April 6 accused Russia of siding with Armenia in the conflict with Azerbaijan over the disputed territory of Nagorno-Karabakh, saying Moscow was meddling as it had in Ukraine and Syria.
Erdoğan also accused Armenia of not sticking to a truce with Turkey’s ally Azerbaijan in the territory.
“I hope the steps taken by Azerbaijan to end fighting will be imitated by Armenia, but this is not the case right now,” said Erdogan about the territory, which was captured from Azerbaijan by Armenian separatists in an early 1990s war.
Erdoğan earlier expressed his support for Azerbaijan and declared that “Karabakh will one day return to its original owner.”
“Russia says that Turkey is taking sides. If we are looking for someone who is taking sides, it is Russia,” Erdoğan said.
“Russia likes taking sides; it has done so in Ukraine, Georgia and today in Syria,” he added.
Russia stands accused of fuelling separatist tensions and wars in both eastern Ukraine and the Georgian breakaway regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.
It is also accused of siding with the Syrian government by targeting opposition forces with air strikes rather than the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
“You say you are in Syria at the invitation of the regime. You are not obliged to go there. If you do, take the side of the oppressed, not the oppressor,” said Erdoğan.
Russia has sought to portray itself as an honest broker in the conflict and Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev is set to travel to both Yerevan and Baku in the coming days.
But Russia has close military ties with Armenia, which hosts a Russian base in Gyumri and is also tied to Moscow through the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) of ex-Soviet states which no longer includes Azerbaijan.
Turkey and Azerbaijan also have a tight military alliance through the 2010 Agreement on Strategic Partnership and Mutual Support which commits both sides to use all resources in the case of a military attack.
Meanwhile, Azerbaijani and Armenian forces on April 6 said they were largely observing a truce that halted four days of clashes over the disputed region.
“The cease-fire was largely observed overnight along the Karabakh frontline,” the Armenia-backed separatist Defense Ministry in Karabakh said in a statement.
Azerbaijan’s Defense Ministry said its forces were “strictly abiding by the cease-fire agreement” that was hammered out on April 5 by the Azerbaijani and Armenian army chiefs during a meeting in Moscow.
Armenia’s Defense Ministry spokesman, Artsrun Hovhannisyan, said sporadic shooting continued yesterday “including from tanks, but not as intensive” as during the last days.
The fragile truce comes after at least 75 people were reported killed as the festering dispute over the territory escalated dramatically on April 1, sparking international concern. Azerbaijan’s army claimed to have snatched control of several strategic locations inside Armenian-controlled territory, effectively changing the frontline for the first time since an inconclusive truce ended the war in 1994.
“Azerbaijani troops are currently reinforcing the liberated territories,” Baku’s Defense Ministry said in its statement.
Yerevan, however, insists that the Azeri side has been ousted from any positions it might have snatched inside the disputed territory.