PRAGUE (RFE/RL)–Foreign Minister Ali Babacan on Tuesday appeared to reaffirm Turkey’s renewed linkage between improved relations with Armenia and a settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict that would satisfy Azerbaijan.
Visiting Prague for talks with European Union officials, Babacan again gave no indications that Armenia and Turkey are about to establish diplomatic relations and reopen their border which Ankara had closed in 1993 out of solidarity with its Turkic ally.
“As of now, we are at a quite advanced stage in this process,” he told a news conference after the talks, commenting on recent months’ flurry of Turkish-Armenian diplomatic contacts. “Also, in the South Caucasus there are other problems, like the situation that we now see in Abkhazia and South Ossetia or the Nagorno-Karabakh issue between Armenia and Azerbaijan.”
“So on the one hand, Turkey is continuing these talks with Armenia. But on the other hand, Turkey is helping the processes to solve issues between other countries as well,” said Babacan. He added that Turkish officials are in close contact with the U.S., Russian and French mediators spearheading the Karabakh peace process and sees a “real possibility” for the signing of an Armenian-Azerbaijani peace agreement this year.
Up until now Ankara had not brought up the Karabakh conflict during months of fence-mending talks with Yerevan. They have also ruled out direct Turkish involvement in the international efforts to end the Karabakh dispute.
Recent media reports cited Turkish officials as saying that Turkey and Armenia will likely sign soon an agreement on the gradual normalization of bilateral relations. However, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has repeatedly made clear this month that this will not happen before a Karabakh settlement.
The Turkish newspaper “Today’s Zaman” reported on Tuesday that the dialogue with Armenia will be on the agenda of next week’s meeting of Turkey’s powerful National Security Council comprising top state officials and army generals. It said President Abdullah Gul will visit Baku shortly after the meeting to “inform the Azerbaijani administration about the decisions Turkey has made regarding normalization with Armenia.”