ANKARA: Harsh Words And Keeping Enmities Alive

HARSH WORDS AND KEEPING ENMITIES ALIVE
by BERÄ°L DEDEGLU

Today’s Zaman
July 29, 2011
Turkey

“We have defended Karabakh from the enemies, what to do with Mount
Agrı [or Ararat] depends on your generation.” These are the words
of Armenian President Serzh Sarksyan. He uttered these words when
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan was in Azerbaijan, his
second official visit abroad as head of the new government. It’s
obvious that Sarksyan deliberately targeted both Azerbaijan and Turkey.

President Sarksyan was not talking about defending people, but only
about defending territories. As Mount Agrı is Turkish territory and
Nagorno-Karabakh is within Azerbaijan’s borders, he gives the image of
a Cold War era politician who has territorial claims on territories
in bordering countries and who praises violence. Armenia’s current
problems will not be resolved with the expansion of its territory,
but with providing better living conditions for its population.

When making the remarks, Sarksyan was probably aware that Turkey
and Azerbaijan would reply angrily. There are many topics of debate
between Turkey and Armenia which doesn’t allow for Turkey’s response
to be justified in the eyes of the world, but in this particular
matter Sarksyan’s attitude does justify Turkey’s harsh response.

Moreover, a declaration which can be interpreted as a call for young
Armenians to wage war does not bode well for Armenia’s democratic
future. He’s almost saying “once we have dealt with the Azeris,
we’ll deal with the Turks.”

This statement does not reflect the truth about the real situation.

First, Nagorno-Karabakh is not a liberated territory; the issue
is not yet settled and the outcome will not be decided by Armenia
and Azerbaijan alone. Pretending that the current situation will
remain as it is, is unrealistic because the negotiations to find
a peace agreement continue. Talking of Agrı when the future of
Nagorno-Karabakh is not yet settled is incongruous.

What is more interesting is to figure out why this antagonistic and
obsolete nationalistic language is now being used. It is no secret
that there are several disagreements between Turkey and Azerbaijan.

Some believe that if these two countries settle their problems,
this will harm the normalization between Armenia and Turkey. There
are also bigger bargains at stake, such as the debate about whether
or not the Kosovo model is applicable to Palestine, to Karabakh or
to Northern Cyprus. If it is, then one must find a way to ensure
the recognition of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (KKTC),
but not of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic. Turkey insinuates that
it supports Palestine’s statehood in the hope that it will serve as
another precedent for recognition of the KKTC. Armenia would like to
see Nagorno-Karabakh recognized, but it never takes a step in helping
Turkish diplomacy on other issues.

Under these circumstances, a statement which makes the normalization
of the Turkish-Armenian relations almost impossible intends to keep
the status quo: no normalization, no recognition and no progress in
resolving any of the remaining problems. Nevertheless, the lasting
settlement of the problems between these three countries will connect
them better to global dynamics, reinforce their domestic democratic
transparency and put the “people” at the center of all political
efforts. Harsh statements bring harsh replies, serving only the
interests of those who benefit from this conflict.

Turkey has shaped its Armenia policy in relation with Ankara’s
expectations from Azerbaijan, even though Turkey is generally
disappointed. However, we all know that there are other factors and
countries one must take into account; Russia and its relations with
other countries for example. Armenia and Azerbaijan have to make their
decisions by looking at Russia’s policy choices. Only after that can
Turkey possibly adopt a clearer position.

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