BAKU: Armenia Would Better To Estimate Loss From Fiasco Of "Football


May 19 2010

Armenians would better be estimating losses from the "football
diplomacy" rather than dividends.

The "Football diplomacy", initiated by Armenia and their patrons
last year which led to the signing of the Zurich protocols, in fact,
aimed to undermine the Azerbaijani-Turkish strategic alliance. No
matter how ingenious Armenians considered themselves, this political
game was a failure due to also sharp reaction of Baku and Turkish
public’s rejection of policies that could harm interests of fraternal

After a little hesitation Gul-Erdogan government took a principled
stand and, despite the insistent "advice" of Washington, Brussels and
Moscow not to link these two issues, it announced that it will not
normalize relations and reopen border with Armenia without progress in
the Karabakh conflict settlement. Statements claiming that the United
States will recognize "genocide of 1915" proved to be a bluff, nothing
more. Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan’s move to remove the Zurich
protocols from the agenda of the Parliament testified to failure of
his policies and an attempt to mitigate internal criticism.

Moreover, instead of dividends, Serzh Sargsyan would better estimate
extent of losses from the process. For starters, thanks to competent
diplomatic game, Ankara gained a voice in the process of peaceful
settlement of Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh.

Yerevan’s refusing to recognize Turkey in this role makes little
difference. Unlike other members of the Minsk Group, Ankara has been
actively engaged in dialogue on this issue with the U.S., France and
Russia. President Dmitry Medvedev, the leader of the country, which is
the priority partner and ally of Armenia, has publicly acknowledged
Turkey’s role in the Karabakh conflict during his recent visit to
the country.

The time-tested strategic partnership between Azerbaijan and Turkey
has become more stable. Complicated issues related to gas prices and
transit tariffs through Turkey’s territory have almost been addressed.

The Turkish government also demonstrably strengthens political and
military cooperation with Azerbaijan. The two countries will also
cooperate in defense industry to manufacture many types of military
equipment, as well as to ensure free supplies of Turkish modern
weapons, including helicopter gunships.

Yerevan’s attempt to strengthen its stance in talks by raising the
issue of Nakhchivan in the media in a provocative way met with a
response from Azerbaijan and Turkey. Chairman of the Supreme Majlis
of the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic Vasif Talibov was invited on
an official visit to Turkey, where he was received by top officials
like President Abdullah Gul, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan,
as well as by Bashbug, Chief of Staffs of the Armed Forces of Turkey.

Simultaneously, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu publicly reminded that
Ankara’s obligations in respect of Nakhchivan are fully in force in
accordance with the Treaty of Kars. So, it is possible that Turkish
military brigade will be deployed in Nakhchivan at some point in
response to a policy of Armenian claims to Azerbaijani lands.

Obviously, impressive development of Russian-Turkish relations, which
reached the level of strategic partnership as a result of intensive
political dialogue in recent years, also promises nothing pleasant
for Yerevan. By their excessive claims and aggressive behaviour,
Armenians do not only isolate themselves from the regional projects,
but also pose risks for large-scale projects identified by the recent
agreements between Ankara and Moscow. Azerbaijan, by contrast, may
well enter these agreements as a third party.

Ongoing events in Yerevan create an atmosphere close to shock. It
realizes that it will be difficult to persistently decline Moscow’s
"advice" to be more constructive in Karabakh talks. Mutually exclusive
tactical games that suggest alliance with Iran and gaining support
from the United States as suggested by Armenian media in defiance of
Russia and Turkey are nothing but political science fiction.

The most that Armenians can achieve is to replace 5 +2 scheme of
the liberation of occupied Azerbaijani with even a fractional scheme
like 2 +3 +2. Sargsyan still has an opportunity to ask for external
political support to maintain his power and additional financial
investments in moribund Armenian economy.

But all this will happen provided that the authorities will not be
stubborn too long. Otherwise, someone will certainly replace them.

Ex-President Levon Ter-Petrosian paid two-day visit to the U.S. to
explore atmosphere in the influential Armenian diaspora and authorities
in Washington. The Russian position will be made clear for ruling elite
in Armenia during the expected visit of President Dmitry Medvedev.

Eternal historic moaning and excessive territorial claims begins to
irritate great powers. It is one thing to use Armenia and its ambitions
as a tool for its foreign policy. It is quite another thing when
this "outpost" tries to impose its own vision and interests on its
patrons. Armenians need to be explained diplomatically, but clearly
that continued disruptive stubbornness only increase bitterness
of disappointment and loss. It will become clear whether they will
understand it at a trilateral meeting of foreign ministers of Russia,
Armenia and Azerbaijan in early June.