ANKARA, BAKU (Combined Sources)—Speaking at a news conference in Ankara on Wednesday, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu claimed that a team of OSCE experts is now visiting the Kashatagh (Lachin) district to delineate an internationally recognized land corridor that would link Karabakh to Armenia proper in the event of a peaceful settlement. He said they plan to complete the “technical work” in time for the a meeting between the presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan set for Oct. 8.
The information was confirmed by an Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry spokesperson, but flatly denied by a senior aide to Nagorno-Karabakh President Bako Sahakian. Speaking to RFE/RL, the Karabakh official, David Babayan, also said in that regard that the Stepanakert government continues to consider the entire Lachin district an integral part of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic.
Official Baku reiterated on Thursday that it is ready to guarantee unfettered communication between Armenia and Karabakh but wants the Lachin corridor to remain an internationally recognized part of Azerbaijan. “We can not accept unilateral use of Azerbaijan’s territory by Armenia,” the APA news agency quoted Deputy Foreign Minister Araz Azimov as saying. “The Lachin corridor will remain Azerbaijani territory even if it is given to Armenia for use.”
“We have heard repeatedly that Armenia intends to communicate with the Armenian community of the Nagorno-Karabakh through the Lachin corridor. This road is also important for the Azerbaijanis and we cannot accept its one-sided use,” Azimov said.
Citing unnamed diplomatic sources, Turkey’s “Hurriyet Daily News” newspaper reported on Thursday that Aliyev and Sarkisian have already made progress in determining “the width and status of the Lachin corridor.” “The deadlock is over the status of Nagorno-Karabakh, but hopes are running high for a final settlement,” it said.
The paper also said Ankara has deliberately made sure that its agreements with Yerevan on the normalization of Turkish-Armenian relations are signed after the planned Armenian-Azerbaijani summit. It said the Turkish side feared that Sarkisian would otherwise sit down with Aliyev “in a more advantageous position.”
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has indicated that his government will not rush to establish diplomatic relations and reopen Turkey’s border with Armenia without a breakthrough in the Karabakh peace process. The Armenian side, for its part, maintains that Karabakh has not been on the agenda of its fence-mending talks with the Turks.
“The finalized [Turkish-Armenian] agreements do not contain even a hint of precondition, especially on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict resolution,” Nalbandian said during public hearings held in the Armenian parliament on Thursday.
The Minsk Group co-chairs also seemingly sought to allay widespread fears in Armenia that Yerevan has pledged to make more concessions to Azerbaijan as part of its landmark deal with Ankara. “The Co-Chairs would also like to reiterate the points made separately by each of our governments that the Minsk Group negotiations are a separate process that should move forward along its own rationale, without preconditions, without any linkages, within a reasonable timeframe, and without imposed acceleration or delay,” read their statement.