On The Armenian-Turkish Normalization: How Much Is It To The RF’s Ad


WPS Agency
October 5, 2009 Monday

Despite the Karabakh problem still being unsolved, Yerevan and Ankara
are making an attempt to normalize their relationship, in the situation
of a discontent by the Armenian, Turkish and Azeri opposition. Turkey
and Armenia are to sign an agreement to establish diplomatic relations
on October 10, with Switzerland’s assistance. The signatories are the
foreign ministers of the two countries. Afterwards the agreement is
to be ratified by the two countries’ parliaments. The diplomatic ties
between Armenia and Turkey were severed in April 1993 when Turkey
closed its borders with Armenia as a sign of support for Azerbaijan
in the ongoing Nagorno-Karabakh war. Turkish President Abdullah Gul
arrived in Yerevan on September 6, 2008, to watch a world championship
qualification football match between the Armenian and Turkish teams,
in the framework of the so-called "football diplomacy" instigated
by Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan. Issues in Turkish-Armenian
relationship were discussed during the visit, as well as the Turkish
diplomats’ idea of setting up a "platform of stability and security
in the Southern Caucasus".

A joint communique by the Armenian and Turkish foreign ministries,
and the Swiss Federal department of foreign relations, was circulated
in late August 2009, following the diplomatic contacts by the two
countries. It said that Armenia and Turkey had agreed to begin internal
political consultations around two protocols to set up diplomatic
relations, and to promote bilateral relationships achieved in the
framework of the Swiss mediation. These agreements are to be signed on
October 10. Judging by expert assessments, the two protocols contain
expressions of a desire by the two countries to normalize their
relationship, and the more acute problems, such as the admission
of the genocide of Armenians by Turkey, and the Karabakh conflict,
are to be resolved at a later time.

According to the media in the Trans-Caucasus, ne of the first events
in the normalization after the paperwork has been signed by Armenia
and Turkey will be the opening of the Gyumri-Kars railroad and the
beginning of a full-fledged economic cooperation between the two
countries. To corroborate their data, the media cite the fact that
preliminary works have been initiated at the Akhuryan station near
Gyumri on the Turkish border to set up a South-Caucasus railroad
logistics center. The South-Caucasus railroad, owned in part by the
RF, has allocated 90 million rubles for the purpose. The need for a
logistics center at the border is explained by the fact that Armenia
and Turkey have different railroad gauges, so there is a need to
reload goods from South-Caucasus cars to Turkish ones.

The reopening of freight lines is to the RF’s advantage as well,
as the 2008 events in South Ossetia have caused a virtual stoppage
in the transit of RF goods to Armenia. The worst hit was the supply
for the RF military base at Gyumri. It is anticipated to set up a
supply route to that base via Turkey, after the agreements in the
Armenian-Turkish normalization have been signed.

Azerbaijan is extremely cautious when it comes to the rapprochement
between Armenia and Turkey. Ankara has to issue constant reminders
that the signing of the agreements is not contrary to the interests
of Azerbaijan in any way. Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip
Erdogan announced last week that Turkey was changing and renewing
its relationships with the world. Erdogan stated when addressing the
nation that the protocol which had been agreed upon by Turkey and
Armenia was a clear signal that the problems existing in the region
would finally be solved. Erdogan noted that Turkey would mind the
interests of Azerbaijan in the negotiations, as it would its own. "I
believe the process will have a positive outcome for Turkey, Armenia
and Azerbaijan, and the issue that has become gangrenous will have
been resolved", said Erdogan.

What transpires from the announcements by Turkish politicians is that
Ankara and Yerevan agree on the inviolability of the Azeri borders
in the joint documents that have been prepared. However, that is not
stated directly, and certain general principles are being declared:
"territorial integrity", border inviolability", "non-involvement in
the internal affairs of other countries", etc. Armenian experts have
long raised the question of whether this point may be interpreted as a
de facto necessity for Yerevan to agree that the Karabakh settlement
is only possible in the framework of the territorial integrity for
Azerbaijan. Armenian opposition parties are discontent with such
phrasing as well. The Armenian revolutionary federation Dashnaktsutyun
and the Heritage, as well as their parliamentary factions, have
joined in an effort to oppose a ratification of the Armenian-Turkish
protocols. Protests against the Armenian-Turkish normalization have
been held in Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh. According to a recent poll,
47.9% of Yerevan residents agreed that a railroad connection had to
be opened between Turkey and Armenia, whereas 40.8% of respondents
opposed the initiative. Naturally, the figures would be completely
different, not in favor of the Armenian-Turkish documents that have
been prepared, if the survey was taken in Karabakh.

The normalization of relationships between Ankara and Yerevan is
thus facing real problems that have to do with the future status
of Karabakh. That is unlikely to change in the near future, now
matter how badly Yerevan and Ankara would like it. With all that,
pragmatic Turkish politicians expect good will and speak in favor of
a cooperation of various kinds with Armenia. Neither is this process
against the wishes of Russia. It is understandable that Turkey’s
activity in the region enhances its own position and makes Moscow more
of a passive observer. Under certain circumstances the dependency of
the RF base at Gyumri on transit via Turkey may somewhat affect its
defensive ability. It is no secret the base at Gyumri is there for
a reason, as Turkey, a NATO member is close by.

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