No Essential Changes In Armenia’s Foreign Policy

Lilit Poghosyan

Hayots Ashkhar Daily
Published on July 17, 2008

In response to our questions, ARA PAPYAN touches upon the prospects
of regulating the Armenian-Turkish relations

"Judging by Serge Sargsyan’s public statements on improving the
relations with Turkey and the responses of the Turkish circles,
can we say that the ice is beginning to melt or there has been an
‘abrupt change’ in Armenia’s foreign policy in this regard?"

"Personally I don’t see any abrupt changes. As a matter of fact, Turkey
has always strived for a dialogue, and that’s natural. Interstate
relations are very much alike interpersonal relations, and if you
have problems, you should at least sit and talk about them.

As to what issues such discussions should be devoted to and whether
or not you are ready to make concessions is quite a different
matter. The attitude of the Armenian side is well-known: since the
regulation of the relations is in the interests of both parties, they
are required to be in equal starting positions and have a dialogue
without preconditions.

I think that attitude remains unchanged, and in that regard, there
have been no essential changes in Armenia’s foreign policy. The same
is true for the issue of opening the Armenian-Turkish border."

By the way, I belong to t he group of people who attach extreme
importance to the opening of the border purely with economic
considerations. I am not sure that it may produce a significant impact
on Armenia but in any case, I consider that having open borders is
always better than being blockaded."

"Do you think the official Ankara is ready to meet the RA President’s
diplomatic commitments half-way?"

"If the conversation is about watching a football match, I don’t think
the proposal will be approved. This is the first thing to say. The
second thing is that the approval will not provide a solution to
any problem. Suppose he comes here, watches the football match and
goes. Some words will be exchanged and forgotten, but this will not
make any essential changes.

There is another important fact which should not be ignored. The
interstate relations, whether bilateral or multi-lateral, are
conditioned by interests and not vice versa. Unfortunately Turkey
has been always pursuing the interest of oppressing us and keeping
our country in a blockade. This is also a kind of index showing to
what extent Turkey is well-disposed to us because they think that
they are exerting pressure upon us by keeping the border closed.

At this point, there’s another factor which we often forget. That is
the Azerbaijani factor. There were moments in the Armenian-Turkish
relations when we were really close to opening th e border; however,
the pressure, the so-called blackmail of the Azerbaijani side,
has always worked. This is something Armenia has mentioned many a
time, stating that it is not allowed to the make bilateral relations
dependant upon the relations with third countries. Let’s wait and see
what developments will occur in future, but I don’t think there are
essential changes awaiting us because the interests remain unchanged.

On the other hand, there is a legal issue here. No matter how much we
may try to avoid, there arises the following question: which is the
de-jure Armenian-Turkish border? What we have is the Soviet-Turkish
border. By saying it is necessary to open the border, we mean that it
is necessary to re-operate the Kars-Gyumri railroad, open the customs
house of Margara and other places.

And besides, opening the border should not be identified with having
broad or regular trade-economic relations. These are different
things. It is possible to have a de-jure open border without the
opportunity to import goods due to the absence of any agreements
regulating the bilateral relations. That’s to say, it is necessary
to have diplomatic relations; opening the border is not enough for
solving any problem. It may only provide a solution to issues of
local importance. Nothing more."

"Is it possible to say that the statements of the President should
be viewed from the tactical rather than strategic angle?"

"Probably. I don’t think Turkey is seeking to improve its relations
with Armenia. And by voicing his approaches, President Serge Sargsyan
showed the West once again that it’s not because of us that the border
continues to remain closed. We weren’t the first to close the border
and have no problem in terms of closing or opening it at present.

The explanations following the President’s statement make it obvious
that Armenia is not ready to regulate its relations with Turkey
at the price of anything. Although there was a moment when there
were certain concerns over some ambiguity in the formulations and
divergent interpretations. I myself have much experience in working
with the press and know that very often you say something and later
you have to prove that your statement was misinterpreted, and the
accentuations were changed, mildly speaking.

The President has said that after establishing diplomatic relations and
opening the border we are ready to sit and discuss all kinds of issues
including those which are sensitive and problematic for both countries.

Of course, this doesn’t concern the historical fact of the
Genocide. The thing is that the issue was speculated, and today I
still have concerns that in the countries where we are close to the
recognition of the Genocide, the Turks may represent the statement as a
willingness to discuss the fact of the20Genocide as well and lead the
issue to a deadlock by making it a pretext. There may be speculations
in that regard. But in case of being guided by such logic, we shouldn’t
say or do anything because it may become a subject of speculations."

"Is the opening of the Armenian-Turkish border really a fatal issue
for us, as some people try to represent?"

"I don’t absolutely share that opinion. It seems to many people that
we will be the main beneficiary as a result of Turkey’s lifting the
blockade of Armenia. At least I don’t see any economic substantiation
for that.

Moreover, the opening of the border is more beneficial to the
Turkish side.

You may argue by saying that Armenia has a very small share in
Turkey’s trade circulation. But from the point of view of developing
the underdeveloped eastern regions, the Turks will be the first to
gain advantage because they will be the exporters. Let alone the fact
that our agriculture may become faced with a hard situation."

From: Emil Lazarian | Ararat NewsPress

Emil Lazarian

“I should like to see any power of the world destroy this race, this small tribe of unimportant people, whose wars have all been fought and lost, whose structures have crumbled, literature is unread, music is unheard, and prayers are no more answered. Go ahead, destroy Armenia . See if you can do it. Send them into the desert without bread or water. Burn their homes and churches. Then see if they will not laugh, sing and pray again. For when two of them meet anywhere in the world, see if they will not create a New Armenia.” - WS