Turkish, Armenian, Azeri leaders hold landmark talks

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Turkish, Armenian and Azeri leaders held landmark talks in Prague today, in fresh signs of smoothing tensions in the southern Caucasus after deadly clashes between Armenia and Turkey-backed Azerbaijan last month.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, his Azeri counterpart Ilham Aliyev and Armenian Premier Nikol Pashinyan gathered on the sidelines of the European Political Community summit. The leaders “talked for a while in the foyer area,” an official Turkish statement said. An image released by Turkey’s official communication director showed Aliyev and Erdogan facing each other with Pashinyan sitting in the middle at a table along with other officials, including Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu.

Erdogan and Pashinyan also held a bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the meeting, the directorate added. The meeting marked the first of its kind after years when the normalization process between Ankara and Yerevan broke up 13 years ago.

The talks came after rekindled clashes between Armenia and Azerbaijan last month over the conflicted Nagorno-Karabakh region. The clashes continued for days amid mutual recriminations from Baku and Yerevan, leaving at least 150 deaths on both sides.

Ankara openly sided with Azerbaijan during the conflict despite ongoing normalization talks between Ankara and Yerevan aiming to establish diplomatic relations between the two neighbors.

After blaming Armenian “violations” and its “aggressive behaviors” for the clashes, Erdogan took a more constructive tone. “We believe it is possible to sign a comprehensive peace agreement between the two countries as soon as possible,” he stated during his address to the UN General Assembly.

Ankara-Yerevan normalization talks became possible after Azerbaijan’s decisive victory against Armenia in the 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh dispute, as Erdogan linked a potential normalization with Armenia to the settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

Turkey recognized Armenia after its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991 but stopped short of setting up diplomatic relations. The fresh rounds of normalization talks come as part of Ankara’s effort to mend ties with its former regional rivals in a bid to overcome its isolation in the region. As part of the talks, the charter flights between the countries have resumed, and the land border — which Ankara sealed off in 1993 in solidarity with Baku — has been opened to third-country nationals.

Pashinyan and Aliyev also gathered in a four-way meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron and European Council President Charles Michel on the sidelines of the summit.

Source:Al-Monitor

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