YEREVAN (RFE/RL) — Russia accused Turkey on Friday of inciting an Armenian-Azerbaijan war with its staunchly pro-Azerbaijani statements made immediately after the outbreak of heavy fighting around Nagorno-Karabakh on April 2.
“The statements by the Turkish leadership are absolutely unacceptable for the simple reason that they were calls for war, not peace,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said during a visit to Armenia.
“This fundamentally contradicts the position of the [U.S., Russian and French] co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group,” Lavrov told a news conference in Yerevan.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan pledged to back Azerbaijan “to the end” hours after fierce clashes involving tanks and heavy artillery broke out along the Karabakh “line of contact.” “We pray our Azerbaijani brothers will prevail in these clashes with the least casualties,” he said during a visit to Washington.
Erdogan also held the U.S., Russian and French mediators responsible for the worst escalation of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian condemned on April 4 the Turkish support for the “Azerbaijani adventure” in Karabakh.
Russia, which helped to stop the fighting on April 5, also denounced “one-sided” statements by Erdogan and other Turkish leaders. Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev suggested that the “Turkish factor” might have also been behind the Karabakh escalation.
Ankara rejected the Russian accusations, saying that Moscow itself has been involved in the Karabakh dispute. Russian-Turkish relations have been strained since last November’s downing of a Russian warplane near the Syrian-Turkish border.
Successive Turkish governments have unconditionally and fully backed Azerbaijan, a country with which Turkey shares close ethnic affinity, throughout the Karabakh conflict. They have refused to establish diplomatic relations with Armenia and open the Turkish-Armenian border out of solidarity with their Turkic ally.