Gul criticizes OSCE Minsk Group

Turkish President Abdullah Gul reaffirmed his country's unconditional support for Azerbaijan in the Nagorno- Karabakh conflict and criticized international mediators ahead of a state visit to Baku that began on Monday, reported RFE/RL.

Reports from Baku said the two leaders signed a new Turkish- Azerbaijani agreement on “strategic partnership” and “mutual assistance.” Details of the agreement were not immediately made public.

“We are one nation with separate states. We come together frequently based on such an understanding. We will continue our solidarity and cooperation,” Gul said at a press conference following his meeting with Azerbaijani president Ilham Aliyev, reported

“Our bilateral relations continue to develop, including in the political, security, economic and cultural fields. We discussed today ways to promote our relations. We are encouraging our companies to increase mutual investments. We are pleased with the investments of Azeri companies in Turkey. We are proud of Turkish companies doing business in Azerbaijan,” added Gul.

The Turkish president stated both before and after the talks that the Karabakh conflict must be resolved rapidly and on the basis of Azerbaijan's territorial integrity. In a weekend interview with the Azerbaijani APA news agency, he said Ankara “will do everything necessary” for a Karabakh settlement acceptable to Baku. “The world will not accept continued [Armenian] occupation of our fraternal country,” he said, according to RFE/RL.

The Turkish president also took a swipe at U.S., Russian and French mediators co- chairing the OSCE Minsk Group. “We want the Minsk Group to move close to the conflict's resolution,” he told APA. “But as things stand now, people call visits to the region by Minsk Group representatives ‘tourist trips.' Therefore, new steps need to be taken.”

“Turkey will continue to take steps to resolve the issue of occupied Azeri territory. I want all of my Azeri brothers and sisters to know that Turkey is and will always be on the side of Azerbaijan,” said Gul as reported by

“In 2008, I came up with such an initiative. At first, I traveled to Yerevan, then honorable [President Serzh] Sarkisian visited Turkey. We informed honorable President Ilham Aliyev about this whole process,” Gul added, referring to the Turkish-Armenian rapprochement that eventually ended in failure.

Armenian leaders have said all along that the Karabakh conflict was never on the agenda of Turkish-Armenian fence-mending negotiations. They say the process failed because Ankara subsequently reverted to linking the normalization of Turkish-Armenian with Karabakh peace.

Gul appeared to single out Russia's “important” role in the mediation process. But he also acknowledged, “Such difficult problems can not solved under pressure from of a single country.”

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan described Russia as “the most important actor” in the Karabakh peace process and urged it do more to broker an Armenian- Azerbaijani settlement when he visited Moscow in January.

However, both President Dmitri Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir sidestepped the implicit Turkish calls for a stronger Russian pressure on Armenia during their subsequent visits to Turkey. “We don't want anyone to think [after the conflict's resolution] that we pressured one of the parties and achieved a solution to the problem that is unfair to somebody,” Putin said in Ankara in June.

Putin also stressed earlier this year that the Turks should drop their Karabakh talks in their talks with Yerevan.

Public Radio of Armenia