Turkish Foreign Minister Says Armenia Ties in Azerbaijan’s Interests

BAKU (AFP)–Turkish Foreign Minister Ali Babacan on Monday defended Ankara’s efforts to improve ties with Armenia during a visit to Baku, explaining it to be in Azerbaijan’s interest as well.

Following talks with Azerbaijani counterpart Elmar Mammadyarov, Babacan said better ties between Turkey and Armenia would help to resolve the longstanding conflict over Azerbaijan’s breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh.

"The normalization of Turkish-Armenian relations would have a positive impact on the Azerbaijan-Armenia talks over Nagorno-Karabakh," he said at a press conference.

Babacan’s visit came amid a push by Turkey for more influence in the volatile Caucasus region, where Russia and Georgia fought a brief war in August. After the conflict, Ankara proposed creating a new forum for cooperation in the region, which Babacan called for regional governmen’s to support.

"All the countries of the region must sit at the bargaining table," he said.

In September, Turkish President Abdullah Gul became the first Turkish head of state to visit Armenia, boosting a tentative dialogue process between the two countries to normalize relations.

Both Turkey and Azerbaijan severed ties with Armenia in 1993, closing borders and imposing an economic blockade on Yerevan in a bid to force Armenia to drop support for the self-determination of the people of Karabakh.

Babacan also met with Azerbaijani Parliament Speaker Oktay Esadov and President Ilham Aliyev. He is scheduled to met with Prime Minister Artur Rasizade, as well.

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