ANKARA (Reuters) – Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said on Friday that a regional cooperation platform in the Caucasus he had discussed with his Azeri counterpart in Baku could help turn a new page in relations with Armenia if Yerevan took “positive steps”.
Erdogan was in the Azeri capital to review a military parade marking Azerbaijan’s victory over Armenia in a war over the Nagorno-Karabakh enclave that ended last month.
During the six-week conflict over the breakaway ethnic Armenian enclave in Azerbaijan, Turkey backed its ethnic Turkic ally Azerbaijan and accused Armenia of occupying Azeri territories.
In Baku, Erdogan called for a change of leadership in Yerevan, while offering the country the chance to join the regional group and see its borders with Turkey reopen.
Broadcaster NTV quoted Erdogan as telling reporters on his return flight from Baku that the regional platform – which will include Russia, Turkey, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Iran and Armenia – would provide a “win-win” opportunity for all parties and that Russian President Vladimir Putin was “keen” on the idea.
“If Armenia joins this process and takes positive steps, a new page can be turned in Turkey-Armenia ties too. As long as new opportunities come up, there is no doubt that Armenia’s gains here will seriously increase too. Armenia stands to win the most from this,” Erdogan was cited as saying.
“If Armenia develops this process positively, we will open our closed borders to Armenia. Our only concern is to contribute to regional peace,” he said.
Armenia and Turkey signed a landmark accord in 2009 to restore ties and open their borders after a century of hostility stemming from the World War One mass killing of Armenians by Ottoman forces. But the deal was never ratified by the two governments and relations have remained tense.
The Nagorno-Karabakh fighting ended after a Russian-brokered ceasefire locked in Azeri gains and saw Moscow deploy peacekeepers to the region. Under a separate deal, Russia and Turkey will also jointly monitor the ceasefire.
Erdogan also said Turkey would play “an important role” in the reconstruction of areas taken by Azerbaijan in the conflict, saying he and Azeri President Ilham Aliyev had agreed to move on this within a year, according to NTV.
(Reporting by Tuvan Gumrukcu; Editing by Ece Toksabay and Mark Heinrich)