Q: Azeri side says that there can’t be any normalization between Ankara and Yerevan relations until Armenia’s withdrawal from Azeri lands. Can I take your comments about this issue? And could the Turkish Parliament ratify the two protocols with Armenia in near future?
A: The process of normalization and dialogue that we have launched with Armenia aims not only to achieve a comprehensive normalization between the Turkish and Armenian people but also to contribute to the establishment of sustainable peace, security and stability in the South Caucasus. In other words, what we are striving to achieve is a comprehensive normalization of relations which will lead to region-wide dialogue and cooperation. It is evident that Turkish-Armenian normalization alone will not suffice to create such a comprehensive peace in the region unless it is complemented by a parallel progress for the resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
Turkey has signed the Protocols with Armenia in good-faith and remains committed to taking this process forward. The Protocols are submitted to the Turkish Parliament for approval. The conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh and the resulting occupation of Azerbaijani territory is an issue which remains a constant center of attention for the Turkish public opinion. Turkish public shares the sentiments and the resentment of the Azerbaijani people concerning the occupied territories.
Q: It is said that Azeri-Turkish relations was harmed by recent developments between Turkey and Armenia. How would you comment about this opinion? Are there any changes in Turkey’s position on Karabakh problem?
A: Turkish-Azerbaijani relations are unique as they have their roots in a long, cherished history and a wide common ground made up of ethnic, cultural, linguistic and religious affinity between the two peoples. This unique character strengthens our bilateral relations and renders it strong against the fluctuations of everyday politics. Turkey and Azerbaijan may have their differences of opinion from time to time, but it rather means that we settle these differences through our strong dialogue based on our mutual trust and find solutions to these problems based on our common interests.
Turkey and Azerbaijan do not have diverging policies regarding the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Our position on this problem is firm and has not changed. Like Azerbaijan, we support a peaceful, negotiated solution to this problem based on the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan. In order to achieve this, we are working closely with Azerbaijan and the Co-Chairs of the Minsk Group. We believe that Turkey’s active policy and contacts with all the concerned parties have played a role in creating a new momentum in the peace negotiations. Turkey will continue to remain actively engaged in this matter in order to facilitate concrete progress for the resolution of this grave issue as soon as possible.
Q: What do you think about the opinion that Turkey should be one of the Co-Chairs of OSCE Minsk group, dealing with Karabakh settlement?
A: The Co-Chairs of the Minsk Group are playing a facilitating role on behalf of the Minsk Group during the negotiations between Azerbaijan and Armenia. Turkey, as a member of the Minsk Group closely follows and supports the work of the Co-Chairs. Turkey does not intend to challenge the current set-up of the Co-Chairmanship and makes an active contribution to the process as a member of this group by maintaining its close contact with all the three Co-Chairs, as well as the parties to the conflict.
Q: What steps could be taken by Ankara in the near future vis a vis the Turkish initiative on Stability and Development Platform in the Caucasus?
A: The unresolved conflicts in the South Caucasus continue to stand in the way for establishing a lasting peace and security in this region. The good-intentioned efforts of the international community to find a solution to these problems have not been able to achieve any substantial breakthrough for the last 17 years. The first requirement for the peaceful resolution of these conflicts is to build mutual confidence among the states and the peoples of this region. With this understanding, following the tragic events of August 2008, Turkey came up with the idea of establishing CSCP. This Platform aims to bring together these states around a common political Platform and to develop mutual understanding and trust by instituting a political dialogue among them.
CSCP is designed as a long-term initiative for the region. The preparatory work for the establishment of the Platform is continuing. We are trying to draft a framework and determine the modalities through which CSCP will function. So far, we held three such meetings with the participation of Deputy Foreign Ministers and we are planning to hold the fourth meeting in early 2010. Given the current political difficulties in the region, you can imagine that this is not an easy exercise. It necessitates good-will as well as enough time and effort by all the participating states. However, all five states have so far given strong support to this initiative and are actively contributing to this work. This gives us reason to be hopeful for the future of the Platform.