Turkish Foreign Minister to Meet with Azeri Counterpart, President

TURKEY-SYRIA/

ANKARA (Combined Sources)—Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu will travel to Baku on Thursday for a ministerial meeting of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation (BSEC) where he will also address what Turkish media is describing as growing concerns by Azerbaijan over Turkey’s push to normalize ties with Armenia, the Turkish Hurriyet Daily reported.

Davutoglu is expected to meet with his counterpart Elmar Mammadyarov and President Ilham Aliyev on the sidelines of the meeting, Hurriyet said.

The meeting will come a week after Aliyev threatened to derail the Western Backed Nabucco pipeline project to bring gas from the Caspian Sea to Europe via Turkey.

Media reports in recent weeks have said the historically strong Turkish-Azeri alliance is in danger of breaking down due to Baku’s uncompromising demands for the Karabakh conflict to be linked to Turkish-Armenian rapprochement.

Although Aliyev presented his threat as a purely commercial move, analysts believe the underlying motive was to send a signal on the Turkish-Armenian deal.

Baku’s outbursts have been seen as a tactic to force the Karabakh linkage on Armenia, which is already under heavy international pressure to quickly normalize its relations with Turkey and resolve the Karabakh conflict.

“The timing of Aliyev’s announcement, less than a week after the accord between Yerevan and Ankara was signed, left little doubt.” Said Brian Whitmore, a senior correspondent at RFE/RL. “Baku had argued strenuously that a deal to reestablish relations between Ankara and Yerevan should not be signed while Armenia continued to occupy Nagorno-Karabakh, and it threatened to take unspecified countermeasures if one was.”

Turkish President Abdullah Gul, meanwhile, phoned his Azeri counterpart, Ilham Aliyev on Wednesday to brief him on discussions with US President Barack Obama and Dmitri Medvedev on the Karabakh conflict, the Anatolian News Agency reported.

The two leaders also discussed the recent removal of Turkish flags from a diplomatic mission in Azerbaijan a monument for Turkish soldiers who fought for Azerbaijan in the early 20th century. The move, a breach of international agreements between Azerbaijan and Turkey, was officially protested by Turkey’s ambassador to Azerbaijan.

Diplomatic sources have said Turkey and Azerbaijan are confident that the two countries will overcome “this period of strain” and will continue their cooperation for providing regional stability.

According to the Anatolian, Gul and Aliyev agreed that “misunderstandings and misperceptions brought about by some emotional reactions” while the two countries “were passing through hard times have been cleared.” It added that the two leaders “confirmed that impressions that ties between Turkey and Azerbaijan had weakened were not good for both countries.”

The Turkish flag was removed after Azeri flags were banned by FIFA at the Turkey-Armenia World Cup qualifying match soccer match in Bursa on October 14. The Turkish flags were replaced Tuesday, Azeri media reported, speculating that the decision to remove the flags came in response to a “Turkish ban” on Azeri flags in Bursa.

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