Azeri President Ilham Aliyev has taken the defense of Turkey after his Armenian counterpart Serzh Sargsian accused Ankara of “denial” during the summit of the European Union’s Eastern Partnership (EaP) program in Prague on April 24.
Sargsian began his speech by commemorating the Armenians who were killed in the Ottoman Empire in 1915, before criticizing Turkey for continuing its “denial” policy by not recognizing the massacres as a genocide. Sargsian also argued that Ankara’s Armenian policy contradicts its efforts to become a full member of the EU.
Aliyev, who took the floor after Sargsian, criticized the Armenian president, describing his intervention as “opportunism” at an event where Turkey was not represented.
“I am here and I can explain why Turkey-Armenia border is closed. The border was closed after the Kalbajar city of Azerbaijan was occupied [by Armenians] in April 1993. Before that, all Azeris who constituted 30 percent of Nagorno-Karabakh’s population were expelled. Right now, 20 percent of the Azeri territory is under Armenian occupation,” Aliyev said.
The Azeri President also noted that Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had suggested a few years ago to open the official archives of both countries to answer all questions regarding the 1915 events and offered his condolences on April 23 this year. “Unfortunately, these calls were not reciprocated. Although the U.S. and the EU have a high opinion of Erdoğan’s statements, it seems that they were not enough for the Armenian government. As such, we see now who is the one who doesn’t want peace in this region,” Aliyev said.
Stressing that Azerbaijan “wants peace and wants its land back,” Aliyev suggested that “It is actually very easy, as long as Armenia demonstrates some political will.”
Even after the latest olive branch to Armenia, Ankara still made a resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh problem between Azerbaijan and Armenia a prerequisite for approving the protocols. Normalization with Armenia is not possible without a solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh problem, Erdoğan told reporters late April 23.
Erdoğan had paid his first post-election visit to Azerbaijan on April 4.
EaP is an EU initiative governing its relationship with the states of Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova, Ukraine, and Armenia intended to provide a venue for discussions of trade, economic strategy, travel agreements, and other issues between the EU and its eastern neighbors.