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Azerbaijan says Armenia not ready to end its "isolation"

RIA Novosti

22:24 16/10/2009 BAKU, October 16 (RIA Novosti) - Azerbaijan's president said on Friday that neighboring Armenia must solve the territorial conflict between the countries before it can re-open ties with Turkey and take part in regional projects.

Turkey and Armenia signed accords last Saturday to end a century of hostilities and re-establish diplomatic relations. However, the deal has yet to be approved by the countries' parliaments, and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said it can only be finalized after Armenia solves its dispute with Azerbaijan over the Nagorny Karabakh region.

Azerbaijan's Ilham Aliyev told a government meeting that the establishment of relations between Turkey and Armenia while the Karabakh conflict continues would be against Azerbaijan's interests.

Azerbaijan fought a war with Armenia over Nagorny Karabakh, a region in Azerbaijan with a largely Armenian population, in 1993. The mountainous province is now controlled by Armenian-backed forces, and 15 years of international mediation have failed to end the territorial dispute.

Aliyev said: "The recent events in the region may have inspired Armenia," but "Azerbaijan will continue to defend its national interests to the end."

"Azerbaijan's growing global role will not allow Armenia to break out of its isolation... Without the involvement of Azerbaijan, not one project in this region can be realized," he said.

Turkey closed its border with Armenia in 1993 in a show of support for Azerbaijan, a predominantly Muslim, Turkic-speaking ally of Ankara, following the Nagorny Karabakh war.

The signing of the Turkish-Armenian accords in Zurich followed mediation by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Ankara has also demanded that Yerevan drop its campaign to have the mass killings of Armenians by Ottoman Turks in 1915 internationally recognized as genocide.

Armenia and Turkey agreed to a "roadmap" to normalize their relations under Swiss mediation this April.

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