Turkey could open its borders to Armenia: Erdogan
'We have no grudge against people of Armenia. Problem is with Armenian administration,' says Turkish president
BAKU, Azerbaijan / ANKARA
Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Thursday his country could open its borders to Armenia, if Yerevan takes steps toward regional peace.
Speaking at a joint news conference with his Azerbaijani counterpart Ilham Aliyev in Baku, Erdogan said they had no issues with Armenian people.
"We have no grudge against the people of Armenia. The problem is with the Armenian administration. Over 100,000 Armenians live in my country," he said.
Erdogan criticized the OSCE Minsk Group for failing to resolve the issue in the face of nearly 30 years of occupation of Azerbaijani territories by Armenia.
At the same time, he praised Russia's role in ending the weeks-long border clashes between Azerbaijan and Armenia earlier this year.
He touched upon the French National Assembly's resolution recognizing Nagorno-Karabakh as a separate republic.
"Even [Armenian Prime Minister Nikol] Pashinyan doesn't accept it," he said, adding that French President Emmanuel Macron has "not learned politics yet."
He said France constantly tried to make contacts with Aliyev during the clashes and also reached out to Turkey, but Ankara did not return the phone calls.
Erdogan went on to say that the Azerbaijani administration will unleash an era of progress in Karabakh within three to five years.
He said the idea of establishing a six-nation regional bloc was something Russia was also in favor of.
"Russia, Turkey, Azerbaijan, Iran, Georgia....Armenia could also be included in this platform," he said.
'Turkey leading by example'
For his part, Aliyev thanked Turkey for the support during clashes with Armenia, adding that two countries enjoy such close and friendly relations.
"President Erdogan's Turkey sets the example of courage, independence and development for the world," Aliyev said.
He said Turkey's drone Bayraktar played a "defining role" in Azerbaijan's victory in Karabakh.
Offering an olive branch to Armenia, he said they are ready to start fresh cooperation with Yerevan for the sake of lasting peace in the region.
"If the Armenian administration draws the right conclusions from the war and looks to the future by giving up its baseless claims, then they can have a place in this bloc," Aliyev said, referring to the regional bloc on the cards.
He said he will travel with Erdogan on the Turkey-built highway to Shusha, a city in Karabakh, once the project is completed.
Turkey and Azerbaijan signed a number of agreements in the fields of transportation, communication and visa exemption.
Relations between the former Soviet republics have been tense since 1991 when the Armenian military occupied Nagorno-Karabakh, also known as Upper Karabakh, a territory recognized as part of Azerbaijan, and seven adjacent regions.
When new clashes erupted in late September, Azerbaijan liberated several cities and nearly 300 settlements and villages from the Armenian occupation.
The two countries signed a Russian-brokered agreement Nov. 10 to end fighting and work toward a comprehensive resolution.
The truce is seen as a victory for Azerbaijan and a defeat for Armenia, whose armed forces have been withdrawing in line with the agreement.
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