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Turkey Tries To Calm Azerbaijan Over Thaw With Armenia

Ahmet Davutoglu (left) was previously chief foreign-policy adviser to Prime Minister Erdogan.
ANKARA (Reuters) -- Turkey's new Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu has sought to ease Azerbaijan's concerns over efforts by Turkey and Armenia to restore ties.

Ankara and Yerevan are engaged in talks to end years of hostility. Last month, they announced a road map to reestablish ties, including reopening a border closed in 1993.

Azerbaijan, Turkey's Muslim ally and a key supplier of natural gas, has reacted angrily to those talks because it fears losing leverage over Armenia in the dispute over Nagorno-Karabakh.

Davutoglu, appointed to the post in a wide cabinet reshuffle on May 1, met Azerbaijani Deputy Foreign Minister Araz Azimov in Ankara on May 4 to discuss Azerbaijani concerns over the road map, a Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman said.

"It is not coincidental that the minister is holding his first meeting with the Azeri deputy minister", the spokesman told Reuters.

"We have not had any disruption in relations with Azerbaijan but you can expect reciprocal high-level contacts to intensify in the coming period," the spokesman said.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan will meet Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev in the Azerbaijani capital Baku on May 13, state-run Anatolian news agency said. Erdogan will also meet Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin on May 16, Anatolian said.

Turkey closed its frontier with Armenia in solidarity with Azerbaijan in its war with Armenian-backed separatists in Nagorno-Karabakh. Baku has said Turkey should make peace with Armenia only after Nagorno-Karabakh is resolved.

Davutoglu, the architect of NATO member Turkey's expanded foreign policy beyond traditional Western-oriented focus, said over the weekend that Turkey now had a stronger foreign-policy vision with regards to the Middle East and Caucasus.

"We should be trying to turn the zero-problem policy with neighbors into a policy of maximum interest," he said after taking over on May 2 from Ali Babacan.