Davit Safaryan

Views on Parallel Processes of Armenia-Turkey, Armenia-Azerbaijan Normalization

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By Davit Safaryan

Special to the Mirror-Spectator

The Armenian public is attentively and warily following the significant growth of tourism in Yerevan. Hoteliers all as if one say that this year a record number of Turkish citizens is expected to visit Armenia as well as a record number of Iranian citizens, the major part of whom come from Iranian Azerbaijan. So the Yerevan residents want to understand the prospective growth of Turkish and Iranian (Azerbaijani) presence there.

Many in Armenia insist that the prospective of Turkish-Azerbaijani expansion seems more and more realistic. The closest attention is paid to any little piece of information on the diplomatic processes of Armenian-Azeri settlement brokered by Russia and Armenia-Turkey normalization. There was not much response to the first attempt of Armenian-Azerbaijani public diplomacy held in Moscow. It means that expectations connected with that meeting were not high and tasks of the parties were quite modest.

Indicative was the flurry of Internet activity about an ordinary representative of the Turkish “Grey Wolves” organization at Tsitsernakaberd, Yerevan, who reminded people of the simple truth that Turkey would never abandon fighting against the Armenian demands of recognizing the Armenian Genocide. Planes regularly flying to and from Istanbul make us wonder whether trade, tourist, humanitarian and other contacts between Armenians and Turks could be stronger and more efficient/influential than the current reminders of centennial hatred and distrust.

Long-range Goals of Official Policy

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Well-informed sources state that Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan’s government is closely following public sentiment and does not take steps that would somehow conflict with social trends. That is why despite the calls and observations heard from everywhere the Armenian authorities are in a challenging search for the ways to push forward the parallel processes of normalization.

The Armenian trade embargo on Turkish commodities effective since 2020 was lifted at the beginning of this year. Since then, the volume of trade circulation between Armenia and Turkey exceeded during the past five months 75 million dollars. It means that by the end of the year this indicator may exceed $150 million. And it is happening when Turkey has not lifted its embargo on Armenian goods imposed in May 1993. Thus, the importation of Turkish goods, interrupted because of the 44-day war, will reach the average indices of the last 29 years.

As we know, negotiations between the representatives of Armenian and Turkish diplomacy are held without preconditions. We also know that Turkey had two preconditions during earlier negotiations: Turkey expected that Armenia would abstain from demanding international recognition of the Armenian Genocide; and Armenia would make unilateral concessions in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict with Azerbaijan. Or, to say it otherwise, Armenia would give up guaranteeing the right of Artsakh to self-determination and recognize the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan. The second condition was set by Turkey long ago though less categorically. But after the 44-day war, Turkey and Azerbaijan have become much more insistent and fastidious in their approach to the Artsakh settlement.

While in theory agreeing to speak with Armenia without preconditions, Turkey has not changed its mind on the above issues. Turkey and Azerbaijan are simply anticipating new gains this time in the field of diplomacy. They basically demand that Armenia guarantee a safe passage of their transportation means through its territory, and though there is an old highway connecting both countries and a relatively new railway through Georgia, it is of prime importance for Turkey, just as it was a hundred years ago, that the road pass through Armenia.

It is worth mentioning that according to the Batum (1918) and Alexandropol Treaties (1920) signed after the collapse of the Russian Empire, Turkey recognized the independence of Armenia on a territory of 10 thousand sq. km. and excluded any Armenian ban or hindrance to stable communication between Turkey and Azerbaijan. It seems that these postulates of Turkish politics have not been forgotten even a century later and have not lost their topicality. It is interesting how the negotiating Armenian diplomats might present the arrangements on this issue to political circles in Armenia and especially to opposition in the diaspora.

On the Political Topicality of the 3+3 Format

A few days ago, the presidents of Russia, Turkey and Iran met in Tehran. The basis issue was Syria, though we can presume that Russia, Turkey and Iran have also agreed there on their positions concerning the South Caucasus, which means that with respect to the anticipated Turkish-Azerbaijani economic and probably political expansion Armenians cannot hope on any external assistance.

Moreover, there is no divergence of positions between Russia and the West relative to Armenian-Azerbaijani normalization and the peace treaty. Although the Russian Foreign Secretary has declared that the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Minsk Group no longer exists, the diplomatic approaches of all three co-chairs to Nagorno-Karabakh settlement do not differ. We should understand that Armenia is facing quite a new reality in the South Caucasus. At the same time, it is surprising that scholarly and expert circles in Armenia have not yet begun to seriously study the real impact of these outlined realities on public and social life in Armenia. Attentively following the political and social discussions held in Armenia, we can realize that the time for sharp disputes still lies ahead.

Preventing the Schism between Armenia and its Diaspora

The tendency prevailing in Turkish public and political discourse during the past 30 years was that Turkey could establish normal relations with Armenia, if not for the diaspora that would hinder it. Consequently the dominant opinion in Turkey’s diplomacy and public policy was to find ways to divide Armenia and its diaspora and keep active circles in the diaspora far from any influence on Armenian politics. It is true that earlier Turkey had no strong levers to interfere in that process. The national leaders of traditional mentality both in Armenian and the diaspora have always stressed the importance of strong ties between themselves but it is clear now that the diaspora, which is closely following the political course of the Armenian authorities, wants to understand whether it can find its place within that new politics.

Consequently, the ruling party headed by Nikol Pashinyan should realize that the Armenian realities are but a part, even though a very important part, of all Armenian reality. Today, no one can be confident in saying that keeping the cause of condemnation and recognition of the Armenian Genocide as part of an imperative agenda is just the diaspora’s business. Meanwhile, Armenia may in the nearest future not have enough strength to advance that agenda on international arena. Such a gloomy prospective should make circles and individuals with a nationalistic or patriotic frame of mind come up with fresh ideas of national consolidation both in Armenia and its diaspora.

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