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Turkey asks for Swiss mediation in Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict


Turkey has requested support from Switzerland to help overcome conflicts between Armenia and Azerbaijan to open the way for Ankara to repair ties with Yerevan, which have been cool over the Armenian occupation of Nagorno-Karabakh.

During a visit to Switzerland in mid-October, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu told Swiss officials that Turkey is ready to normalize its relations with Armenia, but he made it clear that Yerevan should first leave the Azerbaijani territories it has occupied, Turkish sources told Today’s Zaman. The foreign minister said once Switzerland convinces Armenia to leave the occupied territories, Ankara will open its borders with Armenia. The Swiss officials responded positively to Davutoğlu’s proposal.

A bloody conflict erupted between ethnic Azeris and Armenians in 1991 over Nagorno-Karabakh, a mountainous, predominantly Armenian-populated enclave within Azerbaijani borders. Armenian-backed armed forces seized 20 percent of Azerbaijani territories, killing 30,000 people. In a display of solidarity with Azerbaijan on the Nagorno-Karabakh issue, Turkey closed its borders with Armenia.

Davutoğlu, during his recent visit to Switzerland, had pointed out that relations with Armenia are important for Turkey and that Turkey is trying to find new ideas and solutions to develop and cover more ground when it comes to the ties. He hinted that Turkey will increase its studies for better relations with its neighbor in the coming days.

According to the Foreign Ministry sources, Turkey is particularly aiming to normalize relations with Armenia before 2015, the centennial of the so-called Armenian genocide of 1915. Turkey and Armenia had already created a roadmap when the two countries signed twin protocols in 2009 in Switzerland to normalize ties, sources say. However, as Azerbaijan and Armenia have not been able to achieve any results from negotiations, which started at the same time as the Armenian-Turkish normalization, this situation also negatively affects Turkey having better ties with Armenia.

Besides Nagorno-Karabakh, Armenia has also occupied seven other Azerbaijani districts adjacent to Nagorno-Karabakh.

In an effort to solve disagreements before the centennial of the 1915 events, Davutoğlu gave this message to Swiss officials during his visit: “If Armenia starts to leave the occupied territories and does this by presenting a clear timeline of withdrawal that will also be accepted by Baku, we are ready to put these protocols into practice. We are waiting for your help to convince the Armenian administration of this solution.”

The protocols of 2009, which were the first written agreements between Armenia and Turkey, failed after the two countries did not ratify the documents.

A senior Turkish official told Today’s Zaman that Turkey had closed its borders with Armenia not because of Nagorno-Karabakh but because of the adjacent districts that were occupied. Azerbaijan said it would not oppose Turkey opening its border with Armenia if Yerevan were to leave five of the seven adjacent regions. Yerevan also said it could withdraw from the five adjacent regions.

Azerbaijani president visits Turkey

Meanwhile, the president of Azerbaijani, Ilham Aliyev, arrived in Turkey on Tuesday upon an invitation from President Abdullah Gül.

Gül and Aliyev were scheduled to meet at a dinner given in Aliyev’s honor at the Çankaya presidential palace. Aliyev is expected to hold talks with top Turkish officials during the two-day official visit to Ankara.

On Wednesday, Aliyev will come together with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in a tête-à-tête meeting. The two leaders will attend the High-Level Strategic Cooperation Council meeting later in the day. Aliyev and Erdoğan will speak at a joint press briefing after the meeting.

Today’s Zaman

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