Turks, Azeris Mull Armenia Ties

The flags of Turkey and Azerbaijan

ANKARA (Hurriyet)–Turkey will host the re-elected Azerbaijani leader, Ilham Aliyev, on Wednesday for talks aimed at coordinated the two countries’ policies on neighboring Armenia.

The announcement comes after the presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan signed a joint declaration near Moscow pledging to intensify negotiations for a political settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict after weekend talks hosted by their Russian counterpart, Dmitry Medvedev.

Regional allies, Turkey and Azerbaijan, say they are willing to resolve their political differences with neighboring Armenia, as they prepare to review the policy of rapprochement with Yerevan.

But a dual Turkish-Azeri blockade against Armenia’since the early 90s along with Turkey’s deman’s that Yerevan to renounce its international campaign for genocide and end its support for Karabakh’s self-determination, present a bleak future for the normalization of relations between the countries.

The move comes as Ankara tries to assert itself in a region traditionally dominated by Russia.

Turkish analysts Monday praised Turkey’s ‘facilitator’ role in the Caucasus, saying that the upcoming months could see a diplomatic opening in ties between Ankara and Yerevan.

“That would not be a surprise,” Hasan Kanbolat, a Caucasus expert at the Ankara-based Center for Eurasia Studies, told the Hurriyet Daily News.

According to Kanbolat, the leadership in Yerevan is ready to compromise with Turkey.

Another Turkish analyst, Sedat Laciner, described the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict as an “obstacle before the Caucasus policy of Russia and the United States.”

Laciner, the director of the International Strategic Research Organization, a Turkish think tank based out of Ankara made the case for Turkey’s involvement in the Karbakh peace process, explaining that the Russian-led initiative would not be enough for a final solution to the problem.

Describing the situation in Azerbaijan, Kanbolat said he did not think the conflict would reignite, as the “Azerbaijanis are not thinking of using force to stop the ‘occupation,’ due to political concerns at home.”

The Russia-Georgia conflict in August has triggered a diplomatic frenzy in the South Caucasus, traditionally marred by the geopolitical rivalries of major powers. Since the outbreak of fighting, Turkey has been feverishly pushing for new framework to manage relations between the three Caucasus countries–Armenia, Georgia, and Azerbaijan–and Russia. “The Caucasus Stability and Cooperation Platform” envisions a dominant role for Turkey in a region still plagued by the bloody legacy left by its former Ottoman Rulers.

But Sunday’s summit outside Moscow signals Russia’s commitment to remaining the sole guarantor of security in the former Soviet Union.

“Turkey, Armenia and Azerbaijan cannot challenge Russia in the Caucasus,” said Laciner. “Turkey is playing a policy of balance between the United States and Russia,”

Ankara cannot act as a mediator in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict since it has defended Azerbaijani interests since the conflict began, Laciner said, echoing concerns from Armenia and other analysts close to the conflict

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