Opinion on Armenian-Turkish relations
The devastating earthquake in Turkey has brought about a renaissance of diplomatic relations between Armenia and Turkey. For the first time in 30 years, the Turkish border was opened to allow Armenian humanitarian convoys to enter the country. It has been closed by Turkey since 1993 unilaterally.
A delegation led by the Armenian foreign minister went to Ankara to “demonstrate support for Turkey.” The Armenian Foreign Ministry announced its readiness to “improve bilateral cooperation, fully regulate relations with Turkey, establish diplomatic relations and fully open the borders between the countries.” Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu was more cautious, saying there was an agreement to “accelerate measures to normalize relations.”
There is no particular optimism in the expert community of Armenia, and they do not expect full and speedy normalization of relations. Some believe that “the difficult situation after the natural disaster will for some time pacify Turkey’s political ambitions and suspend the impulses of dominance in the region.” Others are sure that “no matter what situation Turkey finds itself in, it will not give up its expansionist appetites.”
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Boris Navasardyan, Head of the Yerevan Press Club
Natural disaster led to a thaw
“After the earthquake we are working with Turkey, which in the coming months will need serious support from the leading countries of the world, primarily the United States and the European Union. Turkey will try to fulfill what the US and the European Union expect from it, including relations with its neighbors, as far as it is consistent with its strategy. It is in this context that Ankara’s warming towards Armenia should be considered.
In 1991 after the collapse of the USSR Turkey recognized Armenia, but still refuses to establish diplomatic relations. Since 1993, Turkey has unilaterally closed its air and land borders with Armenia. Through the efforts of the world community, the air border was opened in 1995 but the land border is still closed.
But Armenia is also interested in this process, since Turkey is in any case a very important player in the resolution of the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict, as well as in the security of Armenia and the entire region as a whole. In addition, Armenia wants to show that it is a civilized country that follows the humanitarian principles accepted in the civilized world.
But this warming is still temporary, and Turkey will by no means revise its strategic ideas about relations with Azerbaijan, Armenia and its role in the region as a whole.
How much this rather superficial process of warming will deepen today can be judged by what developments will be, what will be the results and how much public opinion will change in both countries.
At the moment, any serious expectations are misplaced. But it is needed that both parties to participate in this process with hope for a better future.”
Relations similar to the USSR – Japan
“At this stage, what is still realistic is what is called “normalization of relations” in the form of an open border operating in a certain agreed regime, as well as diplomatic relations that exist between neighboring countries, regardless of how much their strategic and geopolitical interests coincide.
The most relevant example is the interaction between the USSR and Japan, between which there were normal relations. There was a functioning border, diplomatic relations, mutual trade, mutual economic projects. But this does not mean that relations between the Soviet Union, and later Russia and Japan, have been resolved. Territorial disputes between them, for example, remained unresolved.
I see the maximum task at this stage in achieving precisely such relations that were between the USSR and Japan.
The issue of genocide will remain on the agenda
“Normalization of relations does not imply resolution of all contradictions and agreement on all issues. At a minimum, the topic of genocide will remain relevant, even if for some period, due to some subjective ideas and decisions of the authorities of this period, it is not on the surface. This issue cannot be forgotten, and reasonable people in Turkey are well aware of this. The maximum that they can expect from Armenia is more or less passive behavior of the Armenian authorities.
The Armenian Genocide occurred in Ottoman Turkey in 1915 in which over one million Armenians were killed. Armenia and several Western countries and organizations officially recognize those events as genocide. Turkey categorically refuses.
Over the past 30 years, we have had periods when the Armenian authorities did not directly participate in the process of international recognition of the genocide. And, conversely, there were periods when they were the instigators of this process.
Changes of mood will take place for a long time, but it is pointless to expect a final solution to the problem in Turkey’s conception, so that Armenia consigns the genocide to oblivion.”
Azerbaijani factor in Armenian-Turkish relations
“Before the earthquake in Turkey, Azerbaijan played a decisive role in the Armenian-Turkish relations. Turkey would not take any step without the consent of Baku. That is why the bilateral talks between the special representatives of Armenia and Turkey gave modest results.
After the Karabakh war in the early 1990s, Turkey put forward a number of preconditions for opening the land border and establishing diplomatic relations. One of them was the return to Azerbaijan of the areas under the control of the unrecognized NKR. This condition is no longer valid, since these territories are already under the control of Azerbaijan after the second Karabakh war in 2020.
Talk about the normalization of Armenian-Turkish relations intensified after the war. In December 2021, Yerevan and Ankara announced their readiness to take steps to resolve them. Countries have appointed special representatives for this process. They met four times, and there has been no significant progress on the results of the talks yet. Although they are held in a bilateral format, the Turkish side emphasizes that they are coordinating their agenda with Baku.
After the earthquake, despite the fact that the Azerbaijani factor continues to be quite strong, Turkey will have to take into account other factors too. Turkey’s relations with the West will play an important role.“
Open border with Armenia, but not for Armenians
“The intention of Armenia and Turkey to open the land border today concerns only citizens of third countries. But it should be noted that this is an important stage towards the full opening of the border. Today, of course, this is a kind of symbolic decision, but tomorrow perhaps it will be otherwise.
In July last year, the special representatives for the normalization of relations between Armenia and Turkey reached an agreement
- “to ensure the possibility of crossing the Armenian-Turkish land border for citizens of third countries,
- start direct air transportation of goods between Armenia and Turkey”.
On January 6, 2023, Turkey informed Armenia about the lifting of the ban on direct air transportation of goods. The first point is still not implemented.
Now there are tens of thousands of Russian citizens in Armenia, among whom there will be many who want to travel by car to Turkey.
A significant part of the expats are wealthy people who can rent a car and go to Turkey.
The coincidence of a number of such factors will contribute to the fact that the decision on the possibility of third-country nationals to travel from Armenia to Turkey along the land border will cease to be symbolic and will have practical significance. And depending on the development of events, the issue of providing an opportunity for the citizens of Armenia and Turkey to cross the border in one direction or another will become more and more relevant.”
“Since reconstruction work on a huge scale is coming and will continue in Turkey after the elections, Erdogan will urgently need the support of the West. So elections cannot become a turning point, and regardless of whether Erdogan remains or power passes to the opposition, the Western factor will continue to play a serious role.
General elections (parliamentary and presidential) in Turkey are scheduled for May 14. After the earthquake Erdogan was asked to postpone them, but the date was not changed. If Erdogan wins, he will be in his fourth term.
He is a rather flexible politician, as we have repeatedly seen this over the past quarter of a century. And Erdogan will follow a course that will be in line with Turkey’s national interests. But if relations with the West that the country had before 2010 are restored, then it will be possible to count on some warming of relations with Armenia as well.”
Prospects for Regional Relations
“Regional cooperation depends on what happens after dealing with the earthquake.
This will depend on how much the foreign policy and geopolitical orientations of Turkey and Armenia will coincide by that time.
Cooperation at the regional level between Armenia and Turkey will acquire new prospects. And if Turkey’s policy is the same as it was before and after the 44-day war in Nagorno-Karabakh, if it does not change its perception of its role in the South Caucasus, then we will become witnesses of serious contradictions.
And in such conditions it will be impossible to talk about any promising prospects. Today some opportunities are opening up, but again, but it is almost impossible to predict how these opportunities can be realized.”