UPDATES WITH MORE REMARKS BY TURKISH, AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENTS
By Burak Bir, Jeyhun Aliyev and Davut Demircan
ANKARA (AA) - Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Tuesday the Upper Karabakh is as much Turkey’s issue as it is Azerbaijan's.
"It is our greatest desire to resolve the problem of Upper Karabakh on the basis of Azerbaijan's sovereignty and territorial integrity," Erdogan said at a joint news conference with his Azerbaijani counterpart Ilham Aliyev.
He said the railway connecting Turkey to Azerbaijan’s autonomous region of Nakhchivan, which is surrounded on the east and north with rival Armenia, bears great strategic importance.
Praising the brotherly ties between the two countries, Erdogan said: “We will boost the trade volume [with Azerbaijan] to $15 billion in 2023, this is our aim.”
Last year, the trade volume of the two countries was $2 billion.
Turkey’s main exports to Azerbaijan include machinery, mechanical appliances, and components for nuclear reactors.
The Turkish president’s remarks came after the eighth edition of the High-Level Strategic Cooperation Council meeting -- which was established in 2010 to enhance ties at the presidential level.
Erdogan thanked the people and government of Azerbaijan for their support to Turkey after a powerful earthquake hit the country’s east in January.
He also stressed that Azerbaijan was the country that supported Turkey most in the fight against the Fetullah Terrorist Organization (FETO), the group behind the 2016 defeated coup.
Recalling the Khojaly genocide, of which Wednesday will mark the anniversary on 28 years, was one of the most brutal genocide in the 20th century, said Erdogan.
The two-hour Armenian offensive in 1992 killed 613 Azerbaijani citizens -- including 106 women, 63 children and 70 elderly -- and critically injured 487 others, according to Azerbaijani figures.
- Armenia's 'non-constructive' stance main obstacle
Aliyev, for his part, said the high-level meeting was a proof that Azerbaijan and Turkey are on the same page on critical issues.
Mentioning the Upper Karabakh conflict, Aliyev thanked his Turkish counterpart for “always supporting the righteous cause” of Azerbaijan at the international stage.
Aliyev stressed that Azerbaijan always supports the “righteous causes” of Turkey and always stands by Turkish people in all matters in the global arena.
“Sometimes they [Armenians] say that Upper Karabakh is [part of] Armenia, sometimes they say that Upper Karabakh is an independent country. It seems that they don't know themselves what is the Upper Karabakh. If they don't know, we can tell them, the Upper Karabakh is Azerbaijan,” Aliyev added.
Aliyev said that all countries recognize and support the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan.
“Unfortunately, the non-constructive and negative stance of Armenia is the main obstacle in solving the dispute,” he said.
“Azerbaijan will continue purchasing modern weapons from Turkey,” Aliyev said, adding that they also discussed the joint production during the meeting.
The leaders signed the MoU on the construction of Kars-Nakhchivan railway, he said.
Aliyev also hailed Turkey as the “center of power in the world's scale” thanks to the “tireless efforts” of Erdogan.
Upper Karabakh is the internationally recognized territory of Azerbaijan illegally occupied by Armenia through military aggression since 1991.
Four UN Security Council and two General Assembly resolutions, as well as decisions by many other international organizations, refer to this fact and demand withdrawal of the occupational Armenian forces from Upper Karabakh and seven other occupied regions of Azerbaijan.
The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Minsk group -- co-chaired by France, Russia, and the U.S. -- was formed to find a peaceful solution to the conflict, but has not reached any results yet.