Turkey’s Gul Sees ‘A New Opportunity’ to Resolve Karabakh Conflict

ANKARA (Combined Sources)–Turkish President Abdullah Gul said late Wednesday that Armenia and Azerbaijan are willing to resolve their conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh after talks in the two countries, Anatolia news agency reported Thursday.

Gul spoke after meeting Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev, four days after becoming the first Turkish leader to visit Armenia and raised hopes of a thaw in relations in the energy-vital region.

"We think there is a new opportunity for the resolution of the Karabakh issue," Gul said in commen’s broadcast by Azeri state television.

Gul said last month’s war in Georgia, with Russia’sending in tanks and troops to repel an assault by Tbilisi to retake breakaway South Ossetia, had served warning against letting ‘frozen conflicts’ fester.

"After the events in Georgia, we as statesmen, as leaders must analyse the situation in the right way, and express firm political will," Gul said. "It is necessary to better assess the new opportunity, not to allow frozen conflicts to continue but to solve them."

Armenia and Azerbaijan both have “an honest and sincere desire for a settlement,” Gul told reporters on a flight back from talks in Baku, which followed his historic trip to Yerevan on Saturday, Anatolia reported.

“I am coming back with feelings of great content and optimism,” Gul said, adding that the conflict between Georgia and Russia had triggered a new desire to resolve outstanding problems in the Caucasus.

Turkey says it wants progress in ending Nagorno-Karabakh tensions between Azerbaijan and Armenia. A resolution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict would allow Ankara to take bolder steps in its reconciliation bid with Yerevan.

Gul played down suggestions that Ankara’s push to reconcile with Yerevan had irked Azerbaijan, which has close economic and political ties as well as ethnic and cultural bonds with Turkey.

“We agree that we should make efforts to try to resolve the issue… If this opportunity is missed, who knows when a new opportunity will arise?… Everyone is aware that a settlement will lead to comprehensive cooperation from which all will benefit,” he said.

Gul became the first Turkish head of state to visit Armenia when he traveled to Yerevan on Saturday to watch a World Cup qualifying football match between the two countries on an invitation by Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian.

Turkish Foreign Minister Ali Babacan said Wednesday he was trying to organize a trilateral meeting with his Azeri and Armenian counterparts at the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York later this month. Azeri leader Aliyev said he was "looking to the future with increasing hope."

"I’d like to believe that thanks to the efforts of Turkey, Azerbaijan and Armenia, as well as other countries, we will secure peace in the region," he said
A solution to the Karabakh dispute is seen as crucial to any move to establish diplomatic ties between Turkey and Armenia.

A breakthrough could have huge significance for Turkey’s role as a regional power, for energy flows from the Caspian Sea and for Western influence in the South Caucasus region.

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