Demirel Pledges Support to Azerbaijan

ISTANBUL – Turkish President Suleyman Demirel said that Turkey will stand by Azerbaijan at all future international negotiations during a New Year’s television interview–Istanbul-based Jumhuriyet and Turkiye newspapers reported.

Responding to Azeri correspondent Ibrahim Nebioghlu’s questions–Demirel assured Azerbaijan that it occuppies an extremely important and exclusive place within Turkish foreign policy.

"Reaching a just and lasting peace is impossible as long as Azeri lands remain occuppied," Demirel said–adding that "Turkey always and on every occassion stands behind its brother Azerbaijan."

"As long as Azeri territories remain occuppied and millions of refugees remain homeless during yet another winter–a just and last peace cannot be expected," Demirel repeated.

In recapping 1996–Demirel pointed to the five-year independence of Azerbaijan–saying that for the Azeri people independence is more important than bread–water and air. Demirel noted that despite the numerous injustices hurled at Azerbaijan–it has struggle to defend its independence.

"Azerbaijan–under the leadership of Gaidar Aliyev–has secured internal stability–and for at least two years–has succeeded in putting a stop to the bloodshed and improve its economy," Demirel said.

With regard to Nagorno-Karabakh–Demirel said "the issue of territorial integrity and the defense of its [Azerbaijan’s] borders was–in reality–agreed upon in Budapest–and is also one of the guiding principles of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe."

Demirel continued–"There will be no border changes. No one will atttempt to change borders through the use of force. The problems will be resolved through peaceful means."

As for Turkish-Armenian relations–Demirel said "We are in a dialogue with the leadership in Armenia–and they tell us to put an end to this issue." According to Demirel–the Armenian side has asked Turkey to reach some kind of settlement on the issue which can be "honorably presented" to both the Armenian and Azeri peoples.

Demirel told the Azeri people that Aliyev’s presence in Azerbaijan is a blessing. "Azerbaijan has achieved stability. The elections are over and I stand behind Aliyev," Demirel concluded.

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