Wednesday, April 8

The way we see it: Armenia- Turkey relations

The following are some of the comments made by political analysts in Azerbaijan over the possibility of opening up of borders between Turkey and Armenia.

Yeni Musavat:
"the official opening of the borders would mean that no one will no longer think about applying any sanctions on the aggressor. If our strategic partner Turkey becomes an economic partner with the enemy state, then which sanction may Azerbaijan demand from the international community against the aggressor?"

Zardust Alizada in an interview with daily Azadliq:
"This reminds me of a storm in a teacup. The Turkish- Armenian ties were abnormal and they are trying to normalize ties. There is no fault here. Every state is trying to normalize its ties with other states...Turkey has rendered us all assistance during the whole period of the [Karabakh] conflict".

Political analyst Vafa Quluzade:
"This issue raises some doubts. Because the opening of the Armenian- Turkish borders is not a new subject. For some reasons, this issue raised before Obama's visit to Turkey...Borders may be opened. Azerbaijan should not spoil its ties with Turkey for this reason. Because, Azerbaijan would suddenly receive double blows then. Undoubtedly, the opening of the borders is not in our interests. The deterioration of ties with Turkey is not in our interests at all. Azerbaijan should not go to double losses".

Chairman of the Hope (Umid) Party Iqbal Agazada in an interview with Yeni Musavat:
"time will show if this statement is true or not...The latest statement by Gul (Abdullah Gul, President of Turkey) may also be regarded as the Turkish government departure from its position on Armenia. In any case, all this will become clear shortly".

At the end of the day it all comes to this one thing: Turkey is an independent country, with its own internal and external political dynamics. No doubt Turkey and Azerbaijan have been on good terms for what seems like an eternity. But when it comes to politics, certain things must be considered- Turkey's bid for the EU membership, its will to normalize relations with the Armenia and of course the resolution of NK conflict. How Turkey plans to do all of this is another issue- opening up borders or not on April 16th, enhancing its relations with Armenia following Obama's visit to Turkey or leave things as they were... 

The strategically important circumstances that came out as a result of recent developments in the region and in the world- Obama's election, Gul visiting Yerevan for the fist time, possibilities of normalization of relations, Ilham Aliyev re- election and the March referendum, Obama's visit to Turkey- are all signs of possible awakening, that either will cause only good or lay the foundation of long- term improvement, or result in a chaos. 

Whatever the outcome, worsening of ties with Turkey and turning to Russia wont do us any good especially given how Russia always treated the Caucasus- as its back yard.

14 comments:

Onnik Krikorian said...

What's ironic is that there are those nationalists here, but especially in the Diaspora, who are against a border opening and also peace in the South Caucasus.

Even more ironically, they use the argument that a border opening would damage Armenia and benefit Azerbaijan and Turkey. Basically, in all cases, one thing is clear.

There is no logical thought involved. It is basically inbred ethnic hatred cultivated by years of nationalist propaganda on each side and we need to overcome this.

Arzu_G said...

I totally agree with you on that "there is no logical thought involved". For some reason, there is no tendency to look forward with less hatred. Its always about the past and its rarely about the future.

Steve S said...

Its always about the past and its rarely about the future.

Too true. Which is the exact reason I think these kinds of linkages need to be pursued -- with open borders, there's that much more chance for people to come to know each other, which in turn makes a fairer settlement more possible. The NK issue has been poison in both Azerbaijan's and Armenia's politics for years, and needs to end.

Jackal said...

What’s the role of Russia in all of this? The Caucasus are usually Russia’s “near abroad”, and, as the AK party is beginning to explore, also the former Ottoman sphere of influence. But Russia is Turkey’s biggest trading partner.

Turkey just signed a deal with Russian energy giant Gazprom to buy gas, making up for the broken pipeline in Moldova (Turkey tried to buy from Azerbaijan but refused to pay international prices. A little contempt for the little brother perhaps). Turkey depends on Russian tourism and Russian goods. And of course, Turkey depends on Russian permission for any action in the Caucasus.

Remember that while Russian “peacekeepers” destroyed Gori and killed Georgian civilians, Erdogan was in Moscow praising Medvedev’s leadership.

According to unnamed sources in Erdogan’s office, every single secret diplomatic meeting between Ankara and Yerevan was “observed” by a Russian official. According to an agreement between Armenia and Russia, Russia has the right to patrol any border area in Armenia (supposedly this includes the airport customs bureau). So won’t the Russians also need to agree to the border opening? And Armenia has essentially been a Russian client state for the past decade at least. Are we to think that Yerevan is making conciliatory gestures without Moscow’s green light?

Jackal said...

This isn’t a choice for Azerbaijan of leaning towards Ankara or Moscow. The two are working together. Even if they don’t like it much.

Russia likes its influence in Armenia and has always been touchy about anyone setting up nest in its sphere of influence. So what interest does Russia have in the Turkish-Armenian border re-opening?
1. It doesn’t look like Europe will be welcoming Turkey anytime soon. Turkey will be looking for others partners.
2. Further economic ties give Moscow more influence over Ankara, and NOT vice versa.
3. A Russia-friendly Turkey in the Caucasus is better than a US-friendly Turkey.
4. The Turks control the Bosporus which makes the Russians strategically vulnerable.

And why would Turkey cooperate with Russia?

1. Without Russia, the border can’t re-open. Period.
2. Defense Ministry leaks state that Russia has increased its troop levels in Armenia to 5,000. No one likes Russian troops nearby.
3. Russia has shown in the past that displaying its displeasure is more important to it than short term interests
4. Russia has shown that it wants instability in the Caucasus, not peace. If an NK solution will not be possible, it’s pointless waiting for it before opening the border.

Turkey also wants to improve relations with the US. Obama’s recent visit gave Ankara tremendous prestige. Also, while there, Obama avoided mentioning the Armenian genocide, Turkey’s horrid human rights record, and didn’t even pay a diplomatic visit to the Patriarch. No doubt the US can see Turkey and Russia are playing a bigger game and is looking to sweeten Anklara.

Onnik Krikorian said...

Jackal, the Russian border guards are on the Iranian and Turkish borders. They were at the airport too, but not sure if that's the case still. Probably is, but the modernization of the airport has made it less visible in the old Soviet ways it used to be.

I also suspect that the Russians will still control the Armenian-Turkish border for some time and it's probably necessary. However, I don't think they need to give the permission -- at least officially -- for the border to be opened. Basically, Armenia wants them there (it has an army of only 60,000 anyway).

Tom de Waal has also suggested that a border opening might also be in the interest of Russia as well as it controls most key sectors of the economy here. For example, electricity distribution, and it's said that Armenia is about to export electricity to Turkey. Anyway, I guess lot depends on how Obama is viewed in Moscow.

He's not Bush, but it's true, Russia might get nervous about an opening if they think Turkish influence in the South Caucasus will increase and threaten their own. For now, however, I see the main obstacle to a border opening being Azerbaijani-Turkish relations. If that's settled, perhaps these other dimensions will become apparent.

For now, however, I haven't heard any whisper of Russian discontent -- only from Azerbaijan and the Armenian Diaspora.

Jackal said...

Onnik, great comments.I agree, there's no obvious Russian discontent. If there were, all of this would be much more difficult. The world media seems to be more interested in the US role, but Russia is too big to ignore. Russia and Turkey now have a strategic relationship that is only moving forward.
Russia is bound to benefit from the open border, I just wonder about the consequences of Russia benefits.
I don't see Azerbaijani-Turkish relations being a larger hindrance to this than domestic opposition.
And, Arzu, I agree that Azerbaijan has to see this situation as being in Turkey's national interest and worth following up.But it's a bit hubristic of Turkey to tell Azerbaijan to shut up and take it without response. The leaders in Baku are there to lead Azerbaijan. not protect Turkey's interest.
Finally, Obama's involvement is a double-edged sword. It does bring a great deal more focus and support, but it also ties it to the American political schedule, along with its soundbite culture and 48 hour news cycle. It's a bit absurd that whether Obama will acknowledge the 1915 genocide in his April 24 speech can affect these multinational talks.

northwestjeff said...

Fantastic. Discussions on this topic on the internet seem to continually erode into name-calling. Onnik is holding it down!

I thought I'd throw my 2 cents in by saying that commerce is a great way to heal old wounds. I realize as I'm writing this that that is a very 'global capitalist' thing to say, and the nature of business should always be examined, but the example of Russia and Turkey's gas deal is a great one because it illustrates a way for countries to move forward, beyond old grievances, and see ways that two nations can mutually benefit one another.

People can become fast friends when they realize that they can both makes some money off one-another.

Arzu_G said...

Jackal,

Russia always treated Caucasus as its backyard and never as a strategic partner or as a neighbor with diplomatic ties. I am not sure whether Turkey will need Russia's permission to open the borders either, as Turkey has more serious watchdogs like the EU and the US who are pushing for some action. Azerbaijan on the other hand is just pissed off because the resolution of the NK conflict has been dragging on for years and if Turkey agrees to open its borders without taking into consideration the territorial integrity it will turn out to be a disaster for both countries.

Arzu_G said...

Northwestjeff,

In real world, people always think for their own good and benefit, i don't think this is any different from the states. Each country always thinks of its own good then come the others. For Turkey, Azerbaijan's ties are important, but it should think of its own interests first and I think this is where its all going.

Onnik Krikorian said...

You know, the problem we have is considering this a done deal. The fact is that they're trying to work out an agreement that satisfies all, or at least allows each side to give their spin on things to a domestic audience.

Anyway, we will know more this week or at least by 24 April, but for now, this from Today's Zaman. Of course, it's hard to know whether the Turkish press is reliable, but it has to be more than Armenian and Azeri media, I think.

[...] one option being floated in Ankara is opening the border for just one day a week, waiting for conciliatory steps from Yerevan in the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute for further normalization. Sources also say the border is unlikely to be closed again once it is reopened, but this does not mean that Armenia can sit back and relax. Strict visa policies that could be put into practice might render the border practically inaccessible if Yerevan drags its feet in resolving the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute with Azerbaijan.

http://www.todayszaman.com/tz-web/detaylar.do?load=detay&link=172294&bolum=102

Arzu_G said...

I agree with you Onnik on the fact that for some reason everyone decided that an agreement was reached and signed. Nothing has been signed or agreed upon, there is some sort of unsigned document and no one really knows of what is actually in it. So, all we could do is just wait and see...

Jackal said...

Onnik, Concerning whether the Turkish media is reliable... Two comments have come out of the Azerbaijani Presidential Apparatus. 1) Azerbaijan will cut off gas to Turkey if the border re-opens 2) Aliyev gave Turkey his three points of what he will accept as a reasonable solution to NK for the border to re-open.

What's interesting that neither of those comments were reported in the Azerbaijani press. The MOF or President's office did not release them, in fact, many government people are completely denying that they have been said at all. MPs are baffled saying it's not even the position of the government. Other media outlets quote Hurriyet, but Hurriyet doesn't claim a source.

This could be three things 1) Aliyev made this comments confidentially to Erdogan and they were leaked 2) Aliyev made this comments privately, as "brainstorming" to his own advisors and they were leaked to Turkish media, or 3) Hurriyet is jumping to conclusions about the fallout between Turkey and Azerbaijan and printing hearsay.
I think the first option is most likley, but it is mysterious.

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