INTERVIEW WITH RUBEN SAFRASTYAN, PH.D. ON THE CAUCASUS, RUSSIA AND TURKEY
Global Politician, NY
July 4 2006
Q: The statement of Matthew Bryza, OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chair
for settlement of the Nagorno Karabakh Conflict, caused numerous
comments. What do you think on the occasion?
A: Matthew Bryza’s statement is not a result of lack of experience,
as some Armenian politicians think, but an attempt of the U.S.
Administration to speed up political processes in the region. This is
a sign that the geopolitical situation in the region started changing
and the status quo, which has been sustained for 12 years tends to
change. I mean two processes: the withdrawal of the Russian troops
from Georgia and the completion of Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline
The U.S. Administration takes certain steps and the future will show
how the new line will be put into operation. There are attempts
to increase pressure upon Armenia not only as regards the Nagorno
Karabakh conflict. The attempts to engage Armenia into the NATO sphere
of influence are obvious. It’s known that Georgia is aspired to the
Alliance and it seems to be accepted just to spite Russia.
Armenia’s counteraction should be adequate what can be proved by the
RAMFA’s statement on the possible demand to hold talks immediately
between Nagorno Karabakh and Azerbaijan. As for the possibility of
resumption of hostilities, Azerbaijan does not possess sufficient
advantage to start war. the military balance is still being preserved
what cannot be said of the geopolitical situation.
Q: How important is the role of Turkey in the region and can this be
bound with the weakening of Russia’s presence?
A: The role of Turkey is growing. It assumes an active role and in
case with Iran it has a good chance. The strengthening of Turkey’s
influence upon Georgia is also one of the tasks of Turkish diplomacy.
They call it "strategic cooperation" and since Georgia seeks
to join the NATO, Turkey can be a serious support. From the
geopolitical standpoint, the U.S. is interested in normalization
of relations between the two states. The same refers to the
Armenia-Turkey relations. This is one of the fundamental issues of
the American-Turkish consultations. I think normalization of relations
is more profitable for Armenia rather then for Turkey.
As for the Russian-Turkish relations, they can be characterized as
geo-strategic armistice which may result in signing of an agreement.
Presently the situation in the South Caucasus is like that of
December 1917. History proves that when Russia leaves the South
Caucasus Turkey occupies its place immediately. Now the U.S. joined
the process. Using the Iranian factor Turkey will increase influence
with the U.S. assistance. Who will replace Putin? Much depends on
this fact. If a man like him comes to power the priorities will be
preserved. If others come everything will become unclear. I do not
rule out return of oligarchs.
Q: The EU opened talks with Turkey. Unpredictable Greece and Cyprus
have raised their veto. But is there any guarantee that everything
will proceed smoothly?
A: Greece and Turkey have really raised the veto in exchange for some
concessions including Cyprus’s accession to the NATO. It’s obvious
Turkey will not allow this step since it will have to withdraw it
contingent numbering 35-40 thousand military from Northern Cyprus. I
should say that changes take place in Turkey. How much paradoxical
it may sound but the Islamist line pursued by Recep Tayyip leads the
country towards democratization. Islamists wish to limit the role of
the General Staff in the home and foreign policy. The period launched
by the young Turks and Kemal Ataturk comes to an end. The incumbent
government stands for Islam which promotes the process of European
integration. Erdogan can become Turkey’s new president and this will
mean the final end of Kemalists represented by President Ahmed Necet
Sezer. Of course there is a risk. If the positions of the military
weaken we will have to deal with unpredictable Turkey. But it’s
premature to speak of it yet.