YEREVAN -- Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has once again linked the normalization of diplomatic relations between Turkey and Armenia with an acceptable resolution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan.
Erdogan told Azerbaijan's Trend news agency on September 28 that "we will not take steps contradicting Azerbaijan's interests. We can accelerate the process of the adoption of the agreement [with Armenia], but that will depend on the resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict."
He added that "Azerbaijan's interests have always been important to Turkey. We will never betray Azerbaijan."
Azerbaijan has repeatedly made it clear that it would consider the reopening of the Turkish-Armenian border before a Karabakh settlement a serious blow to its national interests.
Erdogan told Turkish media chiefs earlier this month that Ankara will not lift its long-running economic blockade of Armenia "as long as Azerbaijan's occupied territories are not returned."
Armenian Foreign Minister Eduard Nalbandian criticized those remarks, saying they run counter to "the letter, spirit, and aims" of the protocols released on August 31 outlining the restoration of relations between the two countries.
Ending a visit to the United States, Erdogan told journalists on September 27 that the protocols will be signed by Nalbandian and his Turkish counterpart Ahmet Davutoglu on October 10.
The signing ceremony will reportedly take place in Zurich.
Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian has been invited by his Turkish counterpart, Abdullah Gul, to attend the Turkey-Armenia World Cup qualifying soccer match on October 14.