Ties Hinge on Azeri ‘Territorial Integrity,’ Says Turkish Trade Minister

ANKARA–Turkey’s Trade Minister reiterated his country’s preconditions for establishing normal ties with Armenia Thursday, hinging the opening of borders to Armenia’s abandonment of Nagorno-Karabakh’s self determination and independence, and a recognition of Azerbaijan’s so called ‘territorial integrity,’ reported Hurriyet.

“The Turkish-Armenian border could be opened only after Armenia gives up distorting history and restores Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity,” Trade Minister Kursad Tuzmen was quoted by Interfax as telling an Azeri-Turkish business forum in Baku.

"We do not oppose developing trade relations, which will have a positive influence on the development of the whole region; however, prior to this historians should solve some issues and Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity should be restored," he added, making reference to the Armenian Genocide and the still unresolved Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

Tuzmen’s remarks came a day after Turkish Foreign Minister Ali Babacan met separately with his Armenian and Azerbaijani counterparts to discuss the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict on the sidelines of an OSCE ministerial meeting in Helsinki.

Babacan also met with the Misnk Group co-chairs, reported the Anatolian News Agency.

Meanwhile, high-ranking diplomats from the United States, Russia and France issued a joint declaration Thursday urging Armenia and Azerbaijan to build on reported progress in recent talks between their presidents and reach a framework agreement on Nagorno-Karabakh in the “coming months.”

The declaration was issued after the diplomats–Foreign Ministers Sergei Lavrov of Russia and Bernard Kouchner of France and U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Daniel Fried–met with Armenian Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian and Elmar Mammadyarov to discuss a framework agreement for resolving the conflict.

The meeting, which lasted for about 15 minutes, followed much lengthier talks in the Finnish capital Wednesday between the two foreign ministers and the American, French and Russian diplomats co-chairing the Minsk Group, according to Armenian Foreign Ministry spokesman Tigran Balayan.

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