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Erdoğan urges Armenia to mend ties with Azerbaijan

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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Tuesday said Armenia should mend ties with arch foe Azerbaijan if it wants better relations with Ankara, Agence France-Presse reported.

Turkey and Armenia have no diplomatic relations, a closed frontier and a long history of hostility rooted in massacres of Armenians under the Ottoman Turks during World War I.

The bitter relationship has deteriorated more recently over Turkey’s support for Azerbaijan, which last year fought a war with Armenia for control of the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region.

On a visit to Azerbaijan on Tuesday, Erdoğan set out conditions if Yerevan wanted better ties with Ankara.

“If Armenia shows sincere goodwill towards Azerbaijan, then there will be no obstacles for the normalization of ties between Turkey and Armenia,” Erdoğan said.

“Turkey will reciprocate to Armenia’s steps aimed at building lasting peace in the region,” he told a news conference after attending the opening of a newly-built airport in Azerbaijan’s Fizuli district recaptured during the six-week war last year.

The flare-up claimed more than 6,500 lives and ended in November with a Russian-brokered ceasefire that saw Yerevan cede swathes of contested territory it had controlled for decades.

The fighting stirred fears Russia and Turkey could be drawn in directly to support their allies, interventions that would have put Moscow and Ankara on opposing sides not only in Syria and Libya but in Nagorno-Karabakh too.

Turkic-speaking Azerbaijan’s military triumph over Armenia was an important geopolitical coup for Erdoğan as Ankara seeks to cement its influence in the ex-Soviet Caucasus region.

In September, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said Yerevan was prepared to hold discussions to repair relations with Turkey.

Ethnic Armenian separatists in Nagorno-Karabakh broke away from Azerbaijan as the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, and the ensuing conflict has claimed around 30,000 lives.

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