Armenia fails to learn conflict lessons

Institute for War and Peace Reporting IWPR
Aug 7 2009


Yerevan has not been able to lessen dependence on its combative

By Gayane Mkrtchian in Yerevan and Naira Hayrumian in Stepanakert

The August war shocked Armenia, which found its route via Georgia to
its Russia markets blocked by the fighting, though it has failed to
use the last year to diversify away from its economic reliance on
Tbilisi and Moscow.

For the five days of the war, Armenia’s export routes via Georgia –
which take three-quarters of its goods – were paralysed. The railways
did not work, and the Georgian ports of Poti and Batumi stopped

Since Armenia’s borders with Azerbaijan and Turkey are closed, and its
short border with Iran is mountainous and remote, the war showed quite
how vulnerable the country is to a downturn in Georgian-Russia
relations. Within little more than a month, President Serzh Sargsian
was in talks with the Turkish prime minister about normalising

Turkey, which supports ally Azerbaijan, has kept its border with
Armenia closed since the Karabakh war, when Armenians seized control
of Nagorny Karabakh and declared it to be an independent state.

`You can still feel the echoes of this war, since the opinion appeared
in Armenian society that the opening of the Turkish-Armenian border
was possible, but somehow nothing came of it,’ said Andranik Tevanian,
an economist and political expert in Yerevan.

The so-called football diplomacy, named in honour of the
Turkey-Armenia football match that provided the occasion for Turkey
and Armenia to hold talks, has come to nothing and the opposition now
in Yerevan say Sargsian missed a valuable change to allow the country
to diversify.

`It is important to seize the moment in politics. Sometime steps,
taken at just the right time, can lead to places that those taken
wrongly won’t lead,’ said Stepan Safarian, a political analyst and
member of the opposition Heritage party.

`The dead-end, which appeared in the August war, could have played a
major role in ending the blockade of Armenia. However, the moment was
lost, and we returned to the beginning.’

Part of the reason the talks failed is that Azeri politicians
complained about Turkey holding talks with the Armenians, leading the
Turkish ambassador in Baku to announce in March that Turkey would do
nothing against Azerbaijan’s interests.

`Announcements that the opening of the border would negatively affect
Turkish-Azerbaijan relations are just media propaganda, which serves
the interests of certain organisations and structures. Turkey’s policy
towards Azerbaijan is unchanged,’ the ambassador was quoted as saying.

Internal opposition in Armenia itself also helped scupper hopes of a
rapid deal with Turkey. Turkey has still not recognised that the mass
slaughter of Armenians in the last years of the Ottoman Empire was
genocide, and until it does, nationalists will object to any relations
with Ankara.

`It is not right that one side sets all these conditions for years,
and the other side sets no conditions. The Armenian side has to have
preliminary conditions for the resolution of the Armenian-Turkish
conflict,’ said Tevanian

`Turkey must recognise the Armenian genocide. Without recognition of
the genocide serious progress in relations is impossible. Only after
this would opening the border serve the interests of Armenia.’

But if the Armenian opinion is that the opportunity of securing better
relations with Turkey has been lost, then politicians in Karabakh
still believe the war might be their big chance. Shortly after Russia
drove Georgian troops and civilians out of South Ossetia and Abkhazia,
it recognised the two territories as independent states.

The Armenian rulers of Nagorny Karabakh, which has not had its
independence recognised by a single country, hope the precedent set
could help them secure true independence.

`Precedents are set, opening new possibilities for the Nagorny
Karabakh Republic to achieve international recognition of its
independence against the will of Azerbaijan,’ said Masis Malian, head
of the Nagorny Karabakh Public Security Council.

Gayane Mkrtchian is a reporter with online journal and
is a member of IWPR’s Cross Caucasus Journalism Network. Naira
Hayrumian is a freelancer in Stepanakert.

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