Status Quo Hinders Turkey’s Role In Karabakh Dispute, Says Analyst

Fulya Ozerkan

Hurriyet Daily News
Oct 28 2009

‘Maybe there is a need to redefine Turkish-Azerbaijani relations.

Turkey and Azerbaijan are one nation and two states, but the two are
not one state. The family is getting crowded,’ says a senior foreign
policy analyst from TEPAV

Hurriyet photo

Turkish support for Azerbaijan, expressed by keeping the
Turkish-Armenian border closed, has proved nothing more than a symbolic
gesture, says a senior foreign policy analyst.

In addition, poor Turkish-Armenian relations have hindered Ankara’s
prospects of playing an influential role in the Nagorno-Karabakh

"For the last 17 years, Turkey’s boycott of Armenia has not brought
about a solution. It seems difficult to argue that the insistence on
keeping the border with Armenia closed has had any positive impact on
the resolution of the Karabakh problem," Dr. Burcu Gultekin Punsmann
wrote in a policy note for the Economic Policy Research Foundation
of Turkey, or TEPAV, an Ankara-based think tank.

"Moreover, Turkey’s policy has limited Ankara’s potential influence
over Armenia," Dr. Punsmann added. "While being a permanent member
of the Minsk group and supporting its work, poor Turkish-Armenian
relations have hindered Turkey’s prospects of playing an active
mediating role in the Karabakh conflict."

Turkey and Armenia inked two protocols this month to normalize their
troubled relationship in defiance of domestic opposition, the first
intergovernmental text signed between the two neighboring states since
the 1921 Treaty of Kars. The agreement is likely to be a harbinger of
change in the south Caucasus, where the status quo, characterized by
conflicts, divisions, blockades and trade restrictions, is far from
being satisfactory, according to Punsmann.

"The status quo was not helpful for Turkey in terms of achieving
its policy objectives," she wrote. "The status quo is also hardly
beneficial for Azerbaijan."

Redefining Azerbaijani relations?

Azerbaijan opposed Turkey’s signing of the protocols with Armenia
because there has not yet been a settlement to the conflict over
Nagorno-Karabakh, an Azerbaijani territory occupied by Yerevan.

Tension that began with a ban on Azerbaijani flags during the
Turkish-Armenian football game in Bursa escalated with the removal
of Turkish flags at the martyrdom monument in Azerbaijan.

"Maybe there is a need to redefine Turkish-Azerbaijani relations.

Turkey and Azerbaijan are one nation and two states, but the two
are not one state. The family is getting crowded," Punsmann told the
Hurriyet Daily News & Economic Review.

She said the Turkish-Armenian dialogue to normalize relations
prompted the revival of talks under the Minsk group to settle the
Karabakh dispute. "Of course there is an indirect link between the
normalization of Turkish-Armenian relations and the resolution of
the Karabakh problem, but the latter should not be a precondition
for neighborly relations between Ankara and Yerevan," Punsmann added.

"The Karabakh problem was laid down as a precondition for 17 years
and that brought no solution," said the analyst, who warned that if
the protocols fail to pass the respective parliaments of Turkey and
Armenia, the Karabakh talks mediated by France, Russia and the U.S.

would be suspended and the Minsk group’s interest in the matter
would diminish.

"The normalization of Turkish-Armenian relations has the capacity of
fostering new dynamics in the settlement of the Karabakh conflict,
the most intractable conflict and one of the biggest obstacles to
region-wide cooperation," Punsmann wrote in the policy note. "At
this stage, the interruption of Turkish-Armenian bilateral relations
will dissipate the international attention focused on the region and
decrease the chances of an agreement on the conflict over Karabakh
for the foreseeable future."

The protocols signed by the foreign ministers of Turkey and Armenia
must be ratified by the two countries’ parliaments in order to come
into force.

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