Speakers at the April 8 session of the Azerbaijani parliament were uniformly critical of the anticipated rapprochement
between Turkey and Armenia.
Several deputies advocated convening an emergency parliament session on April 14 to debate the repercussions for Azerbaijan of the anticipated opening of the Turkish-Armenian border.
Evda Abramov, who heads the parliament faction of the ruling Yeni Azerbaycan Party, wholeheartedly endorsed that proposal. Abramov conceded that "Turkey is a separate independent state that has the right to its own foreign policy, but they have always assured us that until a solution is found to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict the frontier with Armenia will never be opened and diplomatic ties with that country will not be resumed."
Also on April 8, Mubariz Ahmedoglu of the Center for Political Innovations and Technologies told a press conference in Baku that Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's Justice and Development Party has betrayed the interests of the Azerbaijani and Turkish peoples by embarking on the process of normalizing relations with Turkey.
Ahmedoglu argued that "all these years, Azerbaijan has structured its foreign policy in accordance with Turkey's interests. Baku refrained from developing relations with Moscow to the fullest extent and did not pursue deep cooperation with Washington precisely because strategic cooperation with Ankara was a kind of beacon, a priority for us."
"We always defended Ankara's interests, trying to ensure that it was via Turkish territory that energy resources reached the West. And Turkey has repaid us for this with black ingratitude," he continued.
On April 9, Sheikh-ul-Islam Allakh-Shukur Pashazade, Azerbaijan's most senior Muslim cleric, addressed an open letter
to Ali Bardakoglu, the head of Turkey's Religious Affairs Directorate.
"The closing by Turkey 16 years ago of its border with Armenia as a sign of protest against the unsubstantiated accusations of the so-called 'Armenian genocide' and the occupation of Nagorno-Karabakh by Armenia bestowed on Azerbaijanis a feeling of pride that is equaled by their bitterness and disappointment at the possibility that the border will be opened," Pasha-zade wrote.
He appealed to Turkey as a supporter of Islam, justice and truth not to open its border with "the aggressor Armenia that has occupied 20 percent of Azerbaijan's territory."
Meanwhile, the Executive Director of the Baku radio station Media FM, Tural Aliyev, announced that in the event that the Turkish-Armenian border is indeed opened, his station will cease broadcasting songs by Turkish singers. He called on all other radio stations in Azerbaijan to declare a similar boycott.
Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan on April 8 hinted at a toughening of the Turkish position vis-à-vis Armenia, telling journalists that a solution to the Karabakh conflict must precede a solution to the "problems between Turkey and Armenia." He added that he hopes the UN Security Council will formally designate Armenia as the occupier of Nagorno-Karabakh.
The Turkish newspaper "Today’s Zaman" reported on April 9 that Turkish President Abdullah Gul will visit Baku soon to discuss with his Azerbaijani counterpart Ilham Aliyev Azerbaijan's concern at the anticipated Turkish-Armenian rapprochement. Citing an unnamed Turkish government official, the paper said that the Turkish-Armenian border will probably remain closed at least until October. "Ankara will use the time until November to ease Azerbaijan's concerns," it said.
In Armenia, meanwhile, there are growing calls for official Yerevan to halt negotiations with Ankara if they do not lead to an agreement soon. "If Turkey suddenly caves in to Azerbaijan's threats and these negotiations yield no results soon, then I think the Armenian side will not carry on with them," Giro Manoyan, a senior member of the influential Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutiun), told reporters on April 8.
Former Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian took a similar view in an interview with RFE/RL earlier this week. "I believe the ball is in the Turkish court today," Oskanian said. "Turkey should overcome its dilemma and open the border. Or else Armenia should call a halt to this process."
-- Liz Fuller and Emil Danielyan