Turkey Hails Progress in Armenia-Azerbaijan Talks

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ANKARA (Combined Sources)—The fate of the South Caucasus rests on Turkey, according to Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, the principal architect of Turkey’s regional resurgence in the Middle East and South Caucasus.

Davutoglu’s remarks came Friday during a joint press conference in Ankara with Finnish Foreign Minister Alexander Stubb.

“This region is ours and the fate of this region is in our hands. We are pleased with the negotiations of Azerbaijani and Armenian leaders,” Davutoglu said referring to a meeting between the Presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan on the sidelines of a European Union Summit in Prague Thursday.

Azeri President Ilham Aliyev and Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian spoke one on one for more than two hours Thursday. Neither leader made any public statements afterward, leaving it to the three Minsk Group mediators to present the results of the talks to journalists.

Matthew Bryza, the chief U.S. negotiator, said the presidents made “significant progress” toward finalizing a framework peace agreement along the lines of the basic principles put forward by the co-chairs.

The Turkish Foreign Minister, appointed to the post of chief diplomat on May 1, said his country was very satisfied with the progress made by the presidents during the talks. “We are pleased that progress was made during [Thursday’s] meeting. This is a serious beginning that should be encouraged by all the parties concerned,” he said.

Turkish President Abdullah Gul met with the two leaders separately after their talks Thursday. The meeting came two weeks after Ankara and Yerevan announced that they had “identified a roadmap” for establishing diplomatic relations and reopening the Turkish-Armenian border.

The roadmap, kept largely secret from the public, is reported to include a series of conditions Armenia must meet before diplomatic relations are established between the two countries. Those requirements call for the establishment of a joint commission of historians, the resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, and the recognition of Turkey’s territorial borders.

Since negotiations between Armenia and Turkey began last September, Ankara’s has sought to align Armenia-Turkey relations with the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, asserting at various junctures that a resolution to its conflict with Armenia is tied to a Karabakh peace. This is seen by many commentators and analysts close to the issue see as a means to make the merger of the two separate processes a practical option for an international community seeking a quick solution to both issues.

Stubb, for his part, said he strongly supports Ankara’s membership in the EU and praised the role Turkey has been playing in the resolution of frozen conflicts in the region, saying that it demonstrated once again the strategic importance of Turkey for the EU.

Davutoglu is flying to New York on Sunday to attend a Middle East session of the U.N. Security Council. Turkey is non-permanent member of the council. The foreign minister is scheduled to meet with his counterparts, including British Foreign Secretary David Miliband.

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