'Sky is the limit' for Turkey-Azerbaijan relations, Baku's envoy to Ankara says

DAILY SABAH WITH AA
ISTANBUL
Published 30.07.2019 00:15

Relations between Azerbaijan and Turkey are based on cordial, friendly, very practical and positive strategic ties, Azerbaijan's ambassador to Turkey told Anadolu Agency (AA) in an exclusive interview.

"The sky is the limit for Turkey-Azerbaijan relations," Khazar Ibrahim said on Monday, recalling that ties between the two countries were based the principle of "one nation, two states," a phrase coined by former Azerbaijani President Haydar Aliyev.

Speaking on ending visa requirement for Turkish citizens, Ibrahim said as of Sept. 1, visa requirements would be lifted for Turkish citizens visiting Azerbaijan for up to 30 days.

He said President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his Azerbaijani counterpart Ilham Aliyev recently spoke on the matter, adding that Azerbaijan's Embassy in Ankara had "presented an official note verbale" to Turkey's Foreign Ministry on Thursday.

Azerbaijan removed the visa requirement for Turkish citizens, Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said on Thursday. Azerbaijan will remove visa requirements for Turkish citizens with valid passports as of Sept. 1 in line with the traditional understanding that Turkey and Azerbaijan are "one nation, two states," Çavuşoğlu said.

He also posted a letter from Azerbaijan's Foreign Ministry to Turkey saying the action was taken as the two countries' "cultural roots, friendship, brotherhood, and solidarity are at the highest level and developing in all fields."

"That goes in line with the general relations between two brotherly nations," Ibrahim said. He underlined that the decision to lift visas was made through political will, noting that he believed the motion will have a "very strong impact" on Turkish citizens traveling to Azerbaijan.

Ibrahim stressed that even before the move there had always been a "big inflow" of Turkish citizens to Azerbaijan for many reasons, including travel, family affairs and business. On the reason behind the long-awaited visa lifting, Ibrahim said, "Positively surprising our brothers is always good."

Underlining that visa requirements were matters to be considered within bureaucracies and would be decided "from the top" on the basis of practicality and national interests, he noted that such decisions are rare in the history of Azerbaijan since its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.

The Azerbaijan Democratic Republic was founded on May 28, 1918 as the first secular democratic state in the Muslim East. Its founder was Mammad Amin Rasulzadeh, and the first state to officially recognize the republic was the Ottoman Empire. The republic proclaimed its independence from the Russian Empire in 1918 but only managed to operate for 23 months before being invaded by the Soviet Union. The modern Republic of Azerbaijan declared its independence on Aug. 30, 1991, shortly before the Soviet Union disintegrated.

"So, that's why this is a big decision, and this decision is taken, and that will have a big boost for bilateral relations," he said, denying claims visas were previously required for Turkish citizens of Armenian origin.

"I don't think that we should look for the black cat in the dark room, because, there is no black room, and there is no black cat, actually," he said.

Ibrahim stressed that both countries always aimed to increase travel between them.

"We will never be satisfied with the numbers, both ways," he said, adding that the goal was to have "brotherly" nations.

"Travel freely, travel as easy as possible," he said. He also stressed that sometimes there was a "huge exaggeration" of visa requirements.

Ibrahim highlighted that besides visa regulations, there were many other things that affected travel, including rising flight numbers, railway connections, road quality, general economic circumstances and tourism opportunities for the two countries' citizens. "Sometimes, it is psychological barriers," he said, noting that some may not be aware of all the rules regarding travel policies, and start "bureaucratic panicking."

Progress in reaching solution

in Karabakh conflict

Ibrahim underlined that little progress had been made toward a resolution of the Karabakh conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia. "We had expectations from the new Armenian leadership. We don't see it going as well as we expected," he said.

Stressing that "expectations are failing," Ibrahim said Baku did not believe that "potential is exhausted."

He underlined that the same "tactics," which have been played out by the previous Armenian administrations, were currently being repeated. Nevertheless, diplomatic efforts continue, he added.

"We believe that the [Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE)] Minsk Group co-chairs should be more active in pursuing the country which is indeed breaking international law and occupying illegally the territories of Azerbaijan to come to terms not only with its neighbors but also with international law," he said. The Minsk Group, co-chaired by France, Russia and the U.S., was formed to find a peaceful solution to the conflict.

He also asserted that it was impossible to live in these kinds of circumstances in the 21st century. "You cannot just grab the lands of your neighbor and run away, especially when the neighbor can easily take it back," Ibrahim said.

Karabakh – a disputed territory between Azerbaijan and Armenia – broke away from Azerbaijan in 1991 with military support from neighboring Armenia, and a peace process has yet to be implemented.

Three specific U.N. Security Council Resolutions (853, 874 and 884) and U.N. General Assembly Resolutions 19/13 and 57/298 refer to Karabakh as being part of Azerbaijan. The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe refers to the region as being occupied by Armenian forces.

The Armenian occupation of Karabakh led to the closing of the frontier with Turkey, which sides with Baku in the drawn-out dispute. Political ties between Ankara and Yerevan remain frozen due to the Karabakh conflict as well as the legacy of killings during World War I, which the Armenian diaspora and government describe as "genocide," a description which Turkey refutes.

Turkey reiterates that the dispute needs to be resolved within the framework of international law and Azerbaijan's sovereignty and territorial integrity.

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