Istanbul summit sees row over Nagorno-Karabakh

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on May 22 criticized Armenian Deputy Foreign Minister Ashot Hovakimiyan over his remarks largely focusing on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict during the Black Sea Economic Cooperation Summit in Istanbul.

In his speech at the opening ceremony of the summit, Hovakimiyan gave a lengthy response to Azerbaijani Parliament Speaker Ogdal Asadov, who had stated that one of the member countries “has still not given up its poisonous ideology,” referring to Armenia.

“The Organization of the Black Sea Economic Summit is not a place for political accusations,” Hovakimiyan said.

However, Erdoğan, who was chairing the session, slammed Hovakimiyan for himself giving a “completely political speech.”

“No representative here made any [political] accusation or evaluation. But you took up your entire speech with a political evaluation,” he said.

Erdoğan also noted that the Nagorno-Karabakh issue was within the responsibility of the OSCE Minsk Group, pointing to Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev.

“There is a great benefit to make this issue end,” he said.

The decades-long dispute over Nagorno-Karabakh has its immediate roots in a 1990s war that left some 30,000 people dead after ethnic-Armenian separatists backed by Yerevan seized territory from Azerbaijan.

Despite years of internationally-mediated negotiations since the 1994 ceasefire, the two sides have not yet signed a final peace deal.

Karabakh is internationally recognised as part of Azerbaijan but the ethnic-Azeri community – which before the war made up around 25 percent of the population – was entirely driven out. Almost all of the current 145,000 population of the enclave is Armenian and the region has declared itself the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic.


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