Turkey, Azerbaijan to entrap Armenia by stage-by-stage option – pape

Turkey, Azerbaijan to entrap Armenia by stage-by-stage option – paper

Ayots Ashkhar, Yerevan
14 May 04

Text of Vardan Grigoryan’s report by Armenian newspaper Ayots Ashkhar
on 14 May headlined “Is the stage-by-state or package option a
trap?” and subheaded “What should Armenia do?”

To all appearances, the recent developments in the region have boosted
the hope of Azerbaijani diplomacy for the stage-by-stage option of
the Karabakh issue settlement.

Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov’s statements that the Istanbul
summit of NATO will give rise to Armenian-Turkish-Azerbaijani
trilateral talks with a resolution on “returning the seven districts
in return for the opening of the railway” testifies to this. In turn,
Ankara is continuing to express “its effusion of love” for Armenia,
and the circles that represent Turkish business have started a wide
propaganda campaign about serious prospects for Armenia if trilateral
Turkey-Armenia-Azerbaijan trade is restored.

Against the background of such developments, Armenia’s very
careful attitude to possible negotiations between Armenia, Turkey
and Azerbaijan also draws attention. And the most important thing is
that along with stressing the significance of Armenia’s cooperation
with NATO, President Robert Kocharyan declines to go to Istanbul due
to the fact that Armenian-Turkish relations are not good today.

We think that in order to understand the real reasons behind these
events, it is necessary to take the priorities of US policy as the main
engine that will change the regional status quo. In the regional sense,
the “sly step” of US policy is not at all a quick settlement to the
Karabakh issue, but a drastic change in the geo-political situation
in Armenia and in the whole region by opening the Armenian-Turkish
border. They often say that the Armenian-Turkish border will open
at the end of 2004, and this date coincides with the date for the
negotiations on Turkey’s entry into the European Union.

It is clear that the USA’s harshly-worded demands are added to the
demands of the European Union here. What does the fulfilment of such
a demand mean for Turkey, if it is not to lose its younger brother
Azerbaijan? So how to find a happy medium? It is clear and simple: to
connect the problem of opening the Armenian-Turkish border with the
settlement of the Karabakh issue. But how to set this settlement in
motion, if Azerbaijan, as a party that has lost the war, is not ready
for it because of the inevitability of serious losses it will have
according to any “package” [solution]. In any case, there is an option
called a stage-by-stage option under which Azerbaijan and Armenia
will cede something to each other, saving Turkey as a result. With
this aim, Azerbaijan (i.e. Turkey) is putting forward the idea of
returning the seven districts in return for the opening of the railway.

We are sure that under Turkey’s “pressure”, this figure may be reduced
even to “five districts in return for the opening of the railway”. But
this is not important. The most important thing is that before opening
the Armenian-Turkish border, the settlement of the Karabakh issue
should be connected with the process of improving Armenian-Turkish
relations. Because if tomorrow Azerbaijan puts forward new demands
against Armenia, Turkey will immediately agree with them on the basis
of trilateral arrangements. Turkey will do the same, for instance
by demanding that Armenia give up on the international recognition
of the Armenian genocide, and after that, Azerbaijan will deny the
stage-by-stage arrangements in the Karabakh issue, i.e. block the
railway and keep the liberated territories in its hands.

This testifies to the fact that by applying the stage-by-stage option
for settling the Karabakh issue, Turkish diplomacy is simply luring
Armenia into a trap. So President Robert Kocharyan’s refusal to go to
Istanbul was the right step no matter what the reasons behind it. It
is also correct that Armenia refuses to take part in the trilateral
meeting of the foreign ministers with the mediation of Turkey. But we
think that one cannot be satisfied with this, because any trilateral
meeting of the three countries’ foreign ministers, irrespective of
Turkey’s mediation, will be used for connecting the opening of the
Armenian-Turkish border to the Karabakh issue settlement.

Armenian diplomacy is obliged to draw up another formula against
the Armenia-Turkey-Azerbaijan trilateral format, which will be again
based on the idea of lifting the blockade of transport ways. In this
sense, the Armenia-Turkey-Georgia option is preferable, and Russia’s
involvement in the process is an ideal option, leaving the Karabakh
issue only to the OSCE Minsk Group.