Today's Zaman
May 16 2010

PM ErdoÄ?an to tackle visas, price of gas and Nagorno-Karabakh
on visit to Baku

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip ErdoÄ?an's visit to Baku, scheduled
for today, could bring about positive results in several areas,
including a natural gas price agreement and a visa deal, but analysts
believe no developments will take place over the Nagorno-Karabakh

Although ErdoÄ?an's planned visit could spawn a new era in
relations between the two nations, no new developments or proposals on
the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute are expected to take place. Speaking in
an interview with Sunday's Zaman, Elnur Soltanov, an expert from the
Azerbaijan Diplomatic Academy, said he believes Turkey will reiterate
its position on Nagorno-Karabakh and that Azerbaijani will likely
express its satisfaction.

ErdoÄ?an's last visit took place almost exactly one year ago, on
May 13, a time of growing anger both within the Azerbaijani government
and among the public over Turkey's move to reconcile with Armenia, a
move that was also to include the possible opening of their border,
closed since 1993 in a sign of solidarity with Azerbaijan following
Armenia's invasion and subsequent occupation of Azerbaijan's
Nagorno-Karabakh territory. Opening the border is considered a blow to
Azerbaijani-led economic sanctions against Armenia over its occupation
of some 20 percent of its territory. Azerbaijan deliberately seeks to
orchestrate regional energy and cooperation projects in a way that
bypasses Armenia and thus deprives the small and poor country
economically. The policy has produced few results so far.

Azerbaijani-Turkish relations rest on the solid base of deep
historical and cultural roots. Being strategic partners, Azerbaijan
and Turkey pursue their national interests without disregarding each
other's problems.

Azerbaijan believes Turkey's inclusion of finding a solution to the
Nagorno-Karabakh problem as a catalyst in making progress on the
protocols is the most valuable step for Azerbaijan. This view was
absent when Turkey started the reconciliation process and became more
conspicuous after Azerbaijan expressed its disapproval. Azerbaijanis
regard the speech ErdoÄ?an gave before Azerbaijan's parliament a year
ago as a plainly worded agreement and an unbreakable pledge to his
`brethren' in the South Caucasus. He said Turkey would never open its
border with Armenia unless there were a notable breakthrough in the
Nagorno-Karabakh problem.

Evaluating the prime minister's visit to Baku as a symbolic victory
over Armenian efforts to proclaim April 24 a memorial day
commemorating Armenians killed during World War I, Soltanov says the
heaviest repercussions of this were avoided, ones which could have the
potential to worsen relations between Azerbaijan and Turkey. Because
they were avoided, a sense of optimism is generating new momentum in
Turkey and Azerbaijan to resolve some issues of mutual benefit prior
to this window of opportunity starting to gradually close as next the
April 24 approaches, he says.

Recalling Russian President Dmitry Medvedev's visit to Turkey and
negotiations over a gas deal, Soltanov said that because there is
little to talk about concerning the South Stream, which is seen as the
main alternative to Nabucco, Turkey and Azerbaijan have avoided facing
an additional hurdle in any possible gas deal between them. `There
will definitely be positive statements regarding Nabucco,' Soltanov
said. However, the analyst thinks this will have no benefit for the
Nabucco deal because the fate of the project is not determined by
Azerbaijani-Turkish cooperation alone.

Speaking to Sunday's Zaman, Elman Nasirov, the deputy director of the
Center of Geostrategic Investigation within the Academy of Public
Administration under the Presidency of the Republic of Azerbaijan,
said ErdoÄ?an's visit to Baku will likely be remembered for the natural
gas deal and visa agreement between Azerbaijan and Turkey. The expert
said lifting visa requirements was delayed because of technical
problems on the Azerbaijani side and that it is very likely that these
problems will be solved during this visit.

Speaking about the visa imbroglio between Azerbaijan and Turkey,
Soltanov said if Azerbaijan and Turkey are `one nation in two states,'
then this brotherhood should not lag behind in terms of cooperation.
`One nation in two states may sound hollow in light of how Turks and
Russians, definitely two separate nations, seem to be in a much better
position both regarding mutual trust and concrete mutually beneficial
deals,' the expert noted. He expects Russian-Turkish deals to create
extra pressure on the part of Turkey and Azerbaijan to move forward
and to show that they are capable of doing at least as much regarding
cooperation. In other words, a visa deal between Azerbaijan and Turkey
is very likely to be struck.

Prime Minister ErdoÄ?an and Armenian President Serzh Sarksyan had a
historic bilateral meeting in Washington on the sidelines of a nuclear
summit in April to seek ways to rescue the protocols. Azerbaijan was
not invited to the summit, which further deteriorated Azerbaijan's
relations with the Obama administration. ErdoÄ?an is also expected to
brief Azerbaijani President Ä°lham Aliyev about his meeting with

Considering the Nagorno-Karabakh issue, Nasirov said that it is
obvious the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute will take center stage at
discussions to be held during ErdoÄ?an's visit. Turkish-Russian
multidimensional cooperation will certainly generate interdependence
between the two countries. `The key to solving the Nagorno-Karabakh
problem is in the hands of Russia and Turkey. Being part of this
cooperation which protects the interests of Azerbaijan on all
platforms could make a solution to the dispute more likely,' Nasirov

16 May 2010, Sunday