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06 08 17 - Azerbaijan's consul general in Kars blasts pro-Armenian mayor
<BR>16 August 2006 [22:55] - Today.Az<BR>
A senior Azerbaijani diplomat was reported on Wednesday to have denounced the mayor of the northeastern Turkish town of Kars for publicly advocating the reopening of Turkey's border with Armenia.

Hasan Zeynalov, Azerbaijan's consul general in Kars, was quoted by the news service as branding Mayor Naif Alibeyoglu as a leading member of pro-Armenian forces in Turkey that stand for an unconditional normalization of relations between Ankara and Yerevan. Those forces are acting "to the detriment of not only Azerbaijan but Turkey," he said.

Zeynalov also complained that despite his “repeated conversations” with Alibeyoglu the latter remains adamant in believing that the Turkish frontier should lift its economic embargo imposed on Armenia in 1993, at the height of the war with Azerbaijan, out of solidarity with Azerbaijan.

Alibeyoglu has for years expressed this view in interviews with Turkish and Western media, arguing that cross-border commerce with Armenia would breathe a new life into Kars and other economically depressed parts of eastern Turkey. Kars is less than a hundred kilometers away from the Armenian frontier.

Turkey was reportedly close to heeding U.S. calls for an unconditional reopening of the border three years ago but backed off after strong protests from Azerbaijan. Turkish leaders have said it will remain closed as long as the Nagorno Karabakh conflict remains unresolved.

"For us, the main thing is the position of Turkey’s leadership, which is well known," said Zeynalov. "Turkey is the closest ally of Azerbaijan and will always support us."



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