BRUSSELS–Armenian Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian met Wednesday with the French co-chair of the OSCE Minsk, Berdard Fassier, in Brussels for talks on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and Turkey’s ongoing efforts to link its own talks with Armenia to the conflict’s resolution.
The meeting came after Ambassador Fassier warned Turkey on Monday to drop ongoing efforts to link the normalization of its relations with Armenia to a Nagorno-Karabakh resolution favoring ally Azerbaijan. The French diplomat visited Ankara Monday where met with Foreign Ministry officials on the last leg of a regional tour that included similar visits to Yerevan and Baku.
Fassier, who co-heads the Minsk Group with Yury Merzlyakov of Russia, and Matthew Bryza of the United States, briefed Nalbandian on his meetings in Baku and informed him of a new round of regional visits set for the end of the month.
The next regional tour will seek to set the groundwork for an upcoming meeting between the Presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan that will likely take place in St. Petersburg Russia in June, Fassier said.
The French diplomat on Saturday had expressed concern over the growing diplomatic traffic between Ankara and Baku centered around the Karabakh conflict. His visit to Ankara ostensibly aimed to discuss the “many visits from Turkey to Azerbaijan.”
Turkey, a non-actor in the Karabakh conflict, has been seeking to boost its role in the peace process by linking its own negotiations with Armenia to those spearheaded by the OSCE Minsk Group between Azerbaijan and Armenia.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan explicitly reaffirmed his country’s intention to continue making that link during his visit to Baku last week.
Despite Erdogan’s insistence, a connection between the two issues does not exist and that the Turkish Prime Minister’s ongoing attempt to draw a connection between the two can damage regional relations, Fassier said, adding that such a condition should not be expected.
“The normalization of Armenia-Turkey relations should not be confused with the Karabakh conflict,” the French diplomat said in Baku. “These are different and parallel processes.”
The Minsk Group met with the Presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan in Prague on May 7 and described those talks as constructive and positive with the two countries closer than ever to a compromise solution.
Linking the Karabakh peace process with Turkey’s negotiations with Armenia can jeopardize the new momentum in the talks, according to Fassier, whose concerns were also echoed by the French Embassy in Ankara on Tuesday.
Armenia has also criticized Erdogan for making the normalization of Turkish-Armenian relations conditional on a Nagorno-Karabakh settlement, saying that such statements could hamper both the Armenian-Azerbaijani, as well as the Armenian-Turkish negotiations.
President Sarkisian and Foreign Minister Eduard Nalbandian reacted to Erdogan’s statements as they separately met in Yerevan on May 14 with Brian Fall, Britain’s special representative for the South Caucasus.
In a written statement Sarkisian said that “any Turkish attempt to interfere in the settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh problem can only harm that process.” While Nalbanidan, in a separate statement said Erdogan’s stance “precludes further progress in the ongoing Turkish-Armenian fence-mending negotiations.”