YEREVAN (Combined Sources)–Armenia’s Foreign Minister, Edward Nalbnadian, reiterated on Thursday his government’s strong opposition to direct Turkish involvement in international efforts to settle the Nagorno Karabakh conflict, ArmRadio reported.
“Turkey will not play the role of a mediator in the Karabakh peace process,” Nalbandian said in a joint press conference in Yerevan with Azerbaijan’s Deputy Foreign Minister Mahmud Mamedguliev.
Nalbandian’s remarks came after Turkish President Abdullah Gul said his country is involved in efforts to solve the conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia, in addition to discussions over the normalization process with Yerevan.
“Within this framework, as discussions on issues with Yerevan continue, we are also involved in efforts to solve the problems between Azerbaijan and Armenia,” Gul said, adding that diplomacy did allow him to speak publicly about the steps being taken regarding the issue.
Nalbandian, in contrast, expressed Armenia’s support for the integrity of the OSCE Minsk Group as the chief mediating body for the conflict, noting that “the Nagorno-Karabakh negotiations are underway between Armenia, Azerbaijan and Nagorno Karabakh” and not with Turkey.
The Turkish government appeared ready to drop that linkage when it embarked on an unprecedented dialogue with Yerevan last year to establish diplomatic relations and reopen its border with Armenia, which it closed in 1993 out of solidarity with Azerbaijan.
But the recent rapprochement between Turkey-Armenia has hit a major bump in recent weeks, with Ankara echoing Baku’s stern opposition to the establishment of diplomatic relations with Yerevan before a resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
The shift follows threats by Baku to cut off gas supplies to Turkey, which it says is jeopardizing Azerbaijani national interests with its negotiations to lift the embargo on Armenia before a Karabakh settlement.
Mamedguliev on Thursday reiterated Baku’s strong opposition to the normalization of Turkish-Armenian relations before a Karabakh peace is reached. “Our position is the following: the restoration of links between Turkey and Armenia may only be conditional on the resolution of the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan,” he said.
Nalbandian and Mamedguliev were speaking to journalists after the meeting of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation (BSEC) organization in Yerevan. Western and Turkish media had speculated that the Armenian Foreign Minister and his visiting Turkish counterpart, Ali Babacan, would use the meeting to announce an agreement on a gradual normalization of Turkish-Armenian relations. But that announcement never came.
Babacan, for his part, refrained from making any public statements to that tune during his one-day trip, which ended with a meeting with President Serzh Sarkisian. He did, however, reaffirm the linkage between the Karabakh conflict and the establishment of diplomatic ties with Yerevan as he spoke to CNN-Turk television on his way to Yerevan. According to the Turkish Hurriyet Daily News, he said the Turkish-Armenian dialogue must run parallel with international efforts to settle the Karabakh conflict.