Turkey, Azerbaijan Re-Synchronize Conflict Resolution And Border Ope

Vladimir Socor

The Jamestown Foundation
December 11, 2009

Signing of the protocols in Zurch, Switzerland on October 10, 2009

Under the protocols signed in Zurich, Switzerland on October 10,
Turkey should establish full diplomatic relations with Armenia and
re-open the land border between them. The United States, main driver
of this initiative, insists that the protocols should be ratified
and implemented "without preconditions and within a reasonable
time-frame." President Barack Obama reaffirmed this position most
recently in the run-up to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s
December 7-8 Washington visit. Such reminders are being addressed
equally to Ankara, Yerevan, and Armenian advocacy groups in the United
States (Anatolia news agency, PanArmenian.Net, December 7, 8).

"Without preconditions" is widely understood to mean that Yerevan
would not campaign for US recognition of an Armenian genocide by
Ottoman Turks; and that Ankara would re-open the border without a
synchronized withdrawal of Armenian troops from certain Azerbaijani
districts (five districts beyond Karabakh are usually mentioned at
this stage of the Karabakh conflict-resolution process).

"Within a reasonable time-frame" is widely interpreted to mean
Turkish parliamentary ratification of the border-opening move by
or before April 2010. This would avert the adoption of an Armenian
genocide resolution in the US Congress, and deflect advocacy groups’
pressures on the Administration to recognize such a genocide in the
president’s annual April 24 statement on this issue.

Turkey recognized Armenia following the Soviet Union’s collapse, but
closed the land border in 1993 when Armenian forces began seizing
districts beyond Karabakh in Azerbaijan, resulting in mass-scale
ethnic cleansing. For 16 years, Turkey has taken the position that the
re-opening of the land border depends on Armenian troops’ withdrawal
from those districts.

US administrations of both parties have all along encouraged Turkey to
reopen that border, so as to relieve Armenia’s economic semi-isolation
in the region. This position stems partly from US domestic political
calculations and partly from a nineteenth century Manchesterian
belief (still informing US policies on selected issues) about trade
as a basis for peace among nations. Until the current year, however,
Washington did not strongly press this issue with Turkey.

>>From Azerbaijan’s standpoint, the principle of conditionality -border
opening in return for troop withdrawal-forms the basis of its strategy
for peaceful, stage-by-stage resolution of the conflict with Armenia.

That conditionality was and remains Azerbaijan’s main diplomatic
leverage for regaining those districts peacefully and returning the
displaced population to its homes, pending an ultimate determination of
Upper Karabakh’s status. By the same token, the conditional re-opening
of the border holds out a major incentive for impoverished Armenia
to withdraw the troops from those occupied districts.

Azerbaijan had built its political and diplomatic strategy on that
basis over the years and it counted on Turkey all along to adhere to
that conditionality.

President Obama’s initiative, announced during his April 2009 visit
to Turkey, struck a powerful blow at those assumptions. Turkey was
being asked to lift that conditionality, and Ankara showed willingness
to do so. European Union authorities in Brussels encouraged Turkey
along that path. Washington and Brussels both claimed that Yerevan
would become more tractable on withdrawing troops from Azerbaijani
territories, once a process of Turkish-Armenian normalization moves
forward, detached from that conditionality. In Brussels especially,
this post-modern argument found a resonance out of tune with the
real-world South Caucasus.

Candidate Obama had pledged during the election campaign to recognize
an "Armenian genocide," but President Obama could not do so without
irreparable damage to US-Turkish relations. With pressures mounting
from the president’s own party for congressional and presidential
recognition of genocide, the administration decided to press for
Turkish-Armenian normalization and offered the re-opening of the border
-with its economic benefits to Armenia-in lieu of genocide recognition.

Obama’s initiative could have generated positive dynamics throughout
the region, with strategic gains for the United States, had it pursued
the Turkish-Armenian normalization track in synchronization with the
Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict-resolution track. By separating the two
tracks, and privileging the first, the policy proved ineffective. The
US and EU pressed for fast progress on Turkey-Armenia normalization,
but failed to press for Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict-resolution
in the "Minsk Group" or the bilateral format. In this situation,
Turkey started backtracking soon after having signed the October 10
protocols. Some U.S. administration officials with experience in the
region did caution that progress was achievable if the two tracks
were synchronized, rather than separated.

For its part, Baku reached out to Turkey’s government, political
parties, civil-sector groups, and public opinion at large, with appeals
to take Azerbaijan’s interests into account. This outreach effort
was a first for Azerbaijan and it proved effective. It generated a
strong current of opinion in the Turkish public and parliament, which
would now make it difficult for the Turkish government to sacrifice
or discount Azerbaijan’s interests, even if it decided to do so.

The Turkish government, however, has adjusted its course, as Erdogan’s
Washington visit indicated. It remains for Baku to diversify its
outreach to Turkey beyond Kemalist, nationalist, and moderate
conservative groups, so as to encompass also the increasingly
influential liberal opinion-making circles (ADA Bi-weekly, December
1, 2009).

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