Turkey will not open Armenia border amid Karabakh occupation: Erdoğan
Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Sept. 15 said solution to the Karabakh issue is "sine qua non" for mending relations with Armenia, stressing that Ankara will not open its border to its neighbor until it ends its occupation of the Azeri region.
Speaking at an event to mark the 100th anniversary of the liberation of Baku by the Caucasian Islamic Army, Erdoğan recalled the 1992 Khojaly massacre that killed hundreds of Azerbaijani citizens.
"Those who cannot explain what happened in Khojaly 26 years ago, the massacre in Upper Karabakh, and declare the killers heroes, should not give Turkey any kind of history lesson," Erdoğan said, referring to Armenia.
Erdoğan also added that "those who occupy 20 percent of Azerbaijani lands and prevent over 1 million Azerbaijanis to return to their land should not expect Turkey to open its borders".
Azerbaijan and Armenia remain in dispute over the occupied Karabakh region. Karabakh broke away from Azerbaijan in 1991 with Armenian military support, and a peace process has yet to be implemented.
The Khojaly Massacre is regarded as one of the bloodiest and most controversial incidents of the war between Armenia and Azerbaijan for control of the now-occupied region.
On the heels of the Soviet Union's dissolution, Armenian forces took over the town of Khojaly in Karabakh on Feb. 26, 1992, after battering it with heavy artillery and tanks, assisted by an infantry regiment.
The two-hour offensive killed 613 Azerbaijani citizens, including 116 women and 63 children, and critically injured 487 others, according to Azerbaijani figures. Also, 150 of the 1,275 Azerbaijanis that the Armenians captured during the massacre remain missing.
On Sept. 15, 1918, Baku was liberated by the Caucasian Islamic Army, comprised of Azerbaijani and Turkish soldiers.
'Two states, one nation'
Erdoğan landed at 12.30 p.m. local time (0830GMT) at Heydar Aliyev Airport, where he was greeted by Azerbaijan's Vice President Yagub Eyyubov, Deputy Foreign Minister Ramiz Hasanov, Azerbaijan's envoy in Ankara Hazar Ibrahim and Turkey's envoy in Baku Erkan Ozoral.
Defense Minister Hulusi Akar accompanied Erdoğan on his visit.
Turkish President had a one-on-one meeting with his Azeri counterpart Ilham Aliyev on the sidelines of his visit.
The two presidents also visited the Alley of Honors to pay tribute to national leader of the modern Azerbaijani state Heydar Aliyev, as well as the Alley of Martyrs in Baku to pay tribute to fallen Turk soldiers.
“We celebrate the anniversary of the liberation of Baku and commemorate with respect, gratitude and mercy our 1,132 martyrs who sacrificed their lives for this cause together with our Azerbaijani brothers who fell martyrs for the sake of their motherland,” Turkey’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
“The Islamic Army of the Caucasus and this meaningful anniversary are among the milestones of the common fate of Turkey and Azerbaijan, which finds its meaning through the maxim ‘Two States, One Nation’,” the statement added.
“The liberation of Baku at that time paved the way for the transfer of the capital from Ganja to Baku and to ensure the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan and set the basis for its contemporary boundaries,” the statement added.
“The anniversary of this great victory, won by the Islamic Army of the Caucasus, which was composed of elite soldiers and sent to Azerbaijan in the final months of the First World War, has a privileged place as a symbol of fraternity and solidarity between Turkey and Azerbaijan,” it added.
Cross-border attacks target Azeri towns
Cross-border firing from Armenian forces hit civilian housing units in Azerbaijan, the Azeri Defense Ministry said hours before the ceremony on Sept. 15.
The shelling started Friday night and continued to hit the districts of Tovuz, Tartar and Aghdam until Saturday morning, according to a statement.
No casualties were reported but some buildings were damaged.
The Azeri army responded with retaliatory fire, the ministry said.