Normalization of Armenian-Turkish relations: prospects and risks
Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan announced the possibility of normalizing Armenian-Turkish relations, resuming the work of the Armenian-Turkish railway and highways. He noted that both Turkey and Armenia, as well as Russia and the West, as well as Armenia’s eastern partners, India and China, are interested in this process.
According to the Armenian Prime Minister, the matter concerns “the transformation of the region into a crossroads connecting west with east, north with south”. Speaking about this opportunity, he referred to the statement of Erdogan, who wished success to the Pashinyan government and called for a “constructive approach” and the development of relations based on respect and mutual recognition of territorial integrity.
At the same time, the Armenian Foreign Ministry assures that at this moment there are no negotiations on the normalization of relations between Armenia and Turkey.
The opinion of the Turkologist Suren Manukyan on how events can develop, on the goals and priorities of the parties, possible prospects and threats for Armenia.
- The road to Nakhichevan: is Armenia surrendering its territories to Azerbaijan or emerging from blockade?
- Reopening transport links: new opportunities for Armenia or security threat?
Priorities of the parties
“Some kind of behind-the-scenes negotiations are still taking place, and this is evidenced by the simultaneous statements of the heads of Armenia and Turkey.
The problematic issue is that Armenia mainly talks about economic benefits, while political dialogue is very important for us today. And Turkey prefers to raise the political side of the issue.
However, I believe that Turkey in relations with Armenia, despite the political rhetoric, is very interested in economic benefits, no matter how strange it may sound.
Armenia is not particularly interesting from an economic point of view, but it is important as a transit zone through which Turkey can communicate not only with Azerbaijan (with which it has a connection through Iran), but also with the countries of Central and Central Asia.
Turkey does not hide its far-reaching plans – to become a kind of oil and gas transport hub in the region.
It assumes that all energy resources from Central Asia will flow through Azerbaijan and the south of Armenia (the road through Meghri) to Turkey, from where they will be distributed throughout Europe.
This project is beneficial for the West as well, because now part of these resources from Central Asia comes through Russia. “
“The sanctions against Russia are not being lifted, on the contrary, they are being toughened even more, and the Russian Federation is in isolation. Therefore, Russia wants to solve its economic problems, it is looking for alternative routes along which it will export its production, primarily fuel (oil and gas).
Crossing Azerbaijan and Armenia, Russia can enter foreign markets through Turkey. Thus, she will bypass Ukraine and Georgia, with which she does not have the best relations.
This road is very important for Russia, this has been repeatedly spoken about at the official level. Russia will lobby for the opening of these communications through great pressure”.
Approach of the Armenian authorities
“Pashinyan and his team probably understand that even if all communications leading from Armenia to Azerbaijan are opened tomorrow, trade between them will not start anyway.
No one from Armenia will go to trade in Azerbaijan and vice versa. It will take a long time for these two peoples to find common ground and improve relations.
But Pashinyan’s team announces open borders and trade as the solution to all problems: in Armenia, everything will work out right away, people will be richer, the economy will prosper. This is not entirely true. There are countries that do not have any road problems, but they do not have trade relations. Political relations and relations between two societies are not necessarily associated with open communication.
But Pashinyan intends to open communications and for this, he received a mandate from the population of Armenia”.
The road through Armenia bypassing Armenian interests
“About the road through Meghri. Not everything is so smooth here. Problems most likely rest on the status of the road.
Azerbaijan insists on an extraterritorial corridor, where the laws of the Republic of Armenia will not apply, so that it can transport any goods along this road, and Armenia did not control the process in any way.
Armenia is against it. Official Yerevan has repeatedly stated that the trilateral document signed with the presidents of Russia and Azerbaijan is not about a specific corridor, but about the opening of roads that will be under the supervision of the Armenian authorities. Otherwise, Armenia loses its sovereignty over this part of its territory.
Russia, for its part, wants to control the road itself. Armenia has found itself under great pressure, which today is not able to withstand, especially when this pressure is not only from Azerbaijan and Turkey but also from its ally – Russia.
Therefore, Armenia is trying to play on other fronts as well. Statements that are heard from time to time from Washington, Paris, and other European countries indicate that the West does not agree that processes are taking place in the region without their participation. And since Armenia does not have its own resources to resist these processes, the West will most likely torpedo them, whose support in this matter, I think, we have enlisted”.
Alternative to the road through Meghri – North-South highway
“China and India very much hope that we will someday complete the North-South highway, which can connect them to Europe. They are more interested in the North-South highway than the Megri road, which must pass through Turkey.
China prefers a road that does not pass through NATO countries. The United States is China’s biggest trade opponent, so in this big economic game, China is looking for alternative paths, and one of these paths could pass through Armenia.
But both China and India are gradually becoming disillusioned with Armenia as a country capable of big projects. The North-South highway has not yet been completed.
China hoped that we would build it and become part of the One Belt One Road – an analogue of the Silk Road.
The money for this road was simply stolen or wasted on patching up some holes in the budget during the period of the previous government”.
Thanks to the North-South highway, Armenia can become a transit country. From the north, it will connect Armenia with Georgia and provide access to the Black Sea and European countries. From the south, the highway will connect the country with Iran. The road construction began in 2012, it was planned to put it into operation in 2019, but so far only about 20% have been built. In 2021, the European Union announced that it will provide 600 million euros for the construction of the most difficult sections of the highway.
“Turkey continues to put forward its preconditions, taking into account its political interests. And since now Armenia is weak and has no allies, Turkey will take advantage of this.
Turkey has three preconditions:
- final resolution of the Karabakh conflict,
- weakening efforts to internationally recognize the Armenian genocide,
- recognition of borders on the basis of the Treaty of Kars.
I do not know how much our government can compromise on issues related to national identity, how ready it is to give up its political trump cards for economic benefits. But, for example, the topic of the Armenian genocide, despite the fact that Armenia itself does not attach much importance to it, has long ceased to be only Armenian, and the key to the process of international recognition has long been not in Yerevan.
Many countries that recognize the Armenian genocide do it not because we work well and actively strive for it, but out of their own interests.
As for the Armenian-Turkish borders, which Turkey demands to be recognized. Paradoxically, after the Moscow and Karsky treaties, we do not have any documents defining the borders of the two countries.
The Moscow “Treaty of Friendship and Brotherhood” was signed in March 1921 in Moscow by representatives of the government of the Grand National Assembly of Turkey and the government of the RSFSR. The Soviet-Turkish agreement established the north-eastern border of Turkey. It was signed without the participation of representatives of the Armenian, Georgian and Azerbaijani SSR. The Treaty of Kars “on friendship” between these three republics and Turkey was concluded in October 1921 in pursuance of the Moscow Treaty.
At that time, 100 years ago, there was no independent sovereign Armenia that would make decisions about its borders. In the first case, it was Bolshevik Russia, which had nothing to do with these territories, and in the second case, it was a puppet government in Yerevan.
And we understand very well that these two documents do not have any serious international significance and cannot resolve the issue of borders between the independent Republic of Armenia and Turkey.
I am afraid that by accepting the preconditions of Turkey, we can close this issue forever. It should be noted that of all these preconditions, Turkey is more interested in this item”.
“The economic benefits for Armenia, even if the borders are opened, are more than doubtful. And do we have a calculation of what will happen after the opening of the roads?
Armenia should be ready, for example, to reformat the entire agricultural sector.
There will be branches of the economy that will simply face the threat of liquidation, because the same, but cheaper goods will be brought from neighboring Turkey.
In addition, Armenia introduced a ban on the import of Turkish goods from January 1, 2021. By what logic is she going to open borders now?
Under the normalization of Armenian-Turkish relations, people understand only the opening of borders, not taking into account migration, the flow of various human groups. How does Armenia plan to limit these flows to the country? What resources are there for this? Is Armenia’s security system capable of withstanding these threats?
All these and other questions must be answered before talking about the opening of borders with Turkey”.