Gul Signals More Active Turkish Role in Karabagh Settlement

(AP/Yerkir)–Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul signaled on Friday that his country would play a more active role in finding a peaceful solution to the Karabagh conflict.

Armenia’s chairman of the National Assembly’s Foreign Relations Commission Armen Rustamian–however–pointed out that Turkey is not a neutral side in the Azerbaijan-Armenia conflict–and–as a precondition to lifting its blockade of Armenia–has consistently stressed the necessity for Armenia to make numerous concessions.

"Turkey’s stance for years on end is proof that it stands by Azerbaijan when it comes to the Mountainous Karabagh conflict; as such–it’s futile to talk about its involvement in finding a peaceful resolution," stressed Rustamian.

Turkey has long backed Azerbaijan and now wants the dispute to be settled as soon as possible in line with US policy aimed at promoting stability in the region.

"We will discuss what we can do to remove obstacles–primarily the Karabagh problem–impeding stability in the southern Caucasus," Gul told reporters before his departure from Ankara.

Gul was scheduled to meet with Aliyev–Parliament Speaker Murtuz Alasgarov–Prime Minister Artur Rasizade–Deputy Premier Abid Sharifov–and Foreign Minister Vilayat Guliyev. He will also meet with Azerbaijani and Turkish businessmen before traveling to Iran on Saturday.

Gul was expected to stress that Turkey wants a peaceful solution to the Karabagh conflict which should include respect for territorial integrity.

Turkey officially maintains a trade embargo against Armenia and has said it will not lift it until Armenia resolves its dispute with Azerbaijan.

Asked on his way to Baku whether Turkey was considering reopening its border with landlocked Armenia–Gul said: "There is no such thing for now."

Gul–however–signaled that resolving the Karabagh conflict would lead to a normalization of ties between Turkey and Armenia. Turkey could benefit greatly from that–since easing conflict with its neighbors could strengthen its candidacy for the European Union.

"The resolution of the problems between Armenia and Azerbaijan in line with respect to territorial integrity would certainly have a positive effect on Turkish-Armenian relations," Gul said.

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