Turkish, Armenian, Azeri Foreign Ministers to Meet at UN, Discuss Karabakh

ANKARA (Combined Sources)–The Turkish Foreign Minister Ali Babacan has organized a meeting with counterparts from Armenia and Azerbaijan to discuss the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

The idea, Babacan said, emerged during a visit to Yereven by President Abdullah Gul on Saturday, which raised hopes that Turkey and Armenia could overcome traditional enmity and establish diplomatic relations.

“We have many reasons to be hopeful, the most important of which is the presence of a strong political will to improve ties,” the minister said in an interview with NTV television.

Babacan and Armenian Foreign Minister Eduard Nalbandian are already scheduled to meet on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York later this month.

Babacan said he suggested that their Azeri counterpart also join the meeting and Nalbandian agreed.

“We will now seek Azerbaijan’s consent… The problems between Turkey and Armenia are not independent from the problems between Azerbaijan and Armenia,” he said.

The issue would be discussed when Gul visits Baku later Wednesday, he said.

Turkey has refused to establish diplomatic ties with eastern neighbor Armenia to force Armenia to end its campaign for the recognition of Armenian Genocide.

Babacan said Gul’s visit to Armenia, the first by a Turkish head of state, had raised hopes that the two sides could mend fences.

“In our talks in Yereven we decided to speed up the process (of reconciliation)… We are entering a period in which we will have frequent contacts,” he told NTV.

Babacan and US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had a telephone conversation Wednesday in which they discussed the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

According to Turkish Foreign Ministry Spokesman Burak Ozugergin, the recent developmen’s in the Caucasus, including the conflict in Georgia and Turkish President Abdullah Gul’s visit to Yerevan were high on the agenda of their discussion.

Ozugergin said, Babacan briefed Rice on his visit to Armenia and the outcome of talks with his Armenian counterpart Edward Nalbandian.

"Babacan reiterated that Turkey supports the Minsk process which aims at finding a solution to the Nagorno Karabakh conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia,” Ozugergin explained. “He said that such a solution would have a positive impact on Turkey-Armenia relations. Meanwhile, Rice said that they would support Turkey’s regional initiatives.”

Turkey’s bid to gain influence in the region were met with praise by the United States, which reiterated that it would continue to push Turkey to open its land border with Armenia, the Turkish Daily News (TDN) reported on Thursday.

"We were delighted that the president of Armenia reached out to President Gul and invited him to Yerevan and delighted also that President Gul accepted the invitation," assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs Daniel Fried told the House Foreign Affairs Committee at a hearing on the recent Russia-Georgia conflict.

He said the United States had been encouraging Armenia and neighboring Turkey and Azerbaijan to work toward settling their differences and that his policy would remain in place.

"I’m glad that we have an ambassador going out there soon and we’d certainly hope to see Armenia’s relative isolation end," Fried said. "We want its borders open and its relations improved and we’re going to work to that end,” he was quoted by the TDN as saying.

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