Why Erdogan once again remembered Armenia

Ankara is developing a strategy for relations with Yerevan

Stanislav Tarasov, December 4, 2017, 20:18 – ORIGINES SOURCE –REGNUM

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan stated at the forum of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) that “under the pressure of the Armenian diaspora, official Yerevan persistently keeps the doors of friendship with Turkey at the castle.” According to him, “as a result, Armenia is driven out of transport, trade and energy projects in the region, it continues to be isolated.” He added: “Georgia, as a counterweight to Armenia, has become a bridge between Turkey and the West, on the one hand, and the Caucasus and Central Asia region, on the other … These two examples are very revealing: the one who is friends with us acquires, and whoever keeps the evil loses “.

But why did Erdogan decide to remember Armenia? According to the Turkish newspaper Hürriyet, there are several reasons for this. The first. Between Turkey and its Western partners, a complex relationship develops. The West blatantly blames the president for seeking to establish an authoritarian regime in the country, ignoring the principles of European-style democracy.

Accordingly, Ankara faces the problem of losing trust in its foreign policy. “Due to the fact that Turkey has lost its credibility in the eyes of its allies or neighbors in the region, frankly speaking, it was hardly disturbed by the fact that Armenia also became one of these neighbors,” writes Hürriyet.

“As a result, her chances of becoming a truly important regional player in the South Caucasus immediately evaporated.” At the same time, Turkey for some reason is sure that it can make a breakthrough precisely in the Armenian direction out of the whole set of existing complex foreign policy problems both in the West and in the Middle East, starting to ratify the Zurich signed with Armenia in October 2009 protocols.
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For this, Ankara needs to dissolve a fork that has been imposed by Azerbaijan: bilateral relations with Armenia and the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, to direct the course of events in a parallel channel.

In August 2012, the then head of the Turkish Foreign Ministry, Ahmet Davutoglu, tried to initiate direct negotiations between Azerbaijan and Armenia in Istanbul, by the way, linking them indirectly with the talks on Syria. According to the Turkish newspaper Star, the proposed combination came from Hillary Clinton.

“I begged the Armenian side to return at least one region to Azerbaijan, promising to persuade Ilham Aliyev to sign an agreement with Armenia on ending the state of war and opening the borders between the two countries,” Davutoglu recently told journalists. – Between the Turks and Serbs, the conflict lasted a thousand years, and with the Armenians our problems exist about one hundred years. If we were able to solve the problems in the Balkans with Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, why can not we do the same with the Armenians? ”

In addition, the move towards Armenia can be submitted as “steps towards democratization”, according to Hürriyet, which refers to the speech of Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan at the 72nd session of the UN General Assembly in New York, “since the spring of 2018 Armenia recognizes the Turkish-Armenian protocols as invalid. ”
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The second reason. The achievement of Ankara’s historic agreement with Yerevan can also be seen as the desire to establish relations with Kurdish-born citizens residing on its territory. The Turkish expert community has long recognized that “the Kurdish issue in the country historically is somehow connected with the problems that the Armenian community and the Orthodox Syrians living in the south-west of the country experienced in the past.”

If this does not happen, as the Turkish experts estimate, in the future Ankara will not be able to return to the dialogue with Yerevan on the Zurich protocols. Thus, by all indications, Turkey is developing a strategy for relations with Armenia.

What can be the main thing in it? To begin with, the restoration of relations between Turkey and Armenia can not only change the geopolitical situation in Transcaucasia, but also pave Ankara’s road to Europe. Further, this would promote the economic and political influence of Turkey in the South Caucasus in the alliance not only with Armenia, but also with Russia.

Yerevan will be able to connect to transport and communications (auto- and railway) regional projects. Through Turkey, Armenia will open a land link with the European market, which will make transportation cheaper. And this means that certain Armenian goods can become competitive. Opening the borders and establishing diplomatic relations between Yerevan and Ankara will put an end to Azerbaijan’s monopoly on relations with Turkey in the South Caucasus.

The problem of the settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict could be considered through the prism of recognizing guilt in the Armenian Genocide of 1915 in the format of only Turkish-Armenian relations and without the participation of Azerbaijan, which is provided for by the Zurich protocols. Sooner or later, perhaps in the distant future, but Turkey will have to give a realistic assessment of the events of the early 20th century in the Ottoman Empire.

According to the Ottoman Census, in 1914 there were about two million Armenians in this empire. According to other sources, there were about 13 million people living in Turkey, of which Armenians could constitute up to 4 million people (up to 31% of the population), including in Western Armenia (Eastern Anatolia) – from 1.2 to 3 million (from 37 % to 75%), in Cilicia (now the south-western coast of Turkey) – 400 thousand (more than 50%), in Istanbul – 150 thousand (20% of the population of Istanbul). In 1918, Armenians in Western Armenia remained no more than 150-200 thousand people. Today, only a few tens of thousands of Armenians live in Turkey, mainly in Istanbul.
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In Azerbaijan, which is in strategic partnership with Turkey on the principle of “one nation – two states”, after the collapse of the USSR and the development of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, there are no Armenians left at all, and those that are actually in a marginal state. All questions concerning the past of the Armenian-Turkish and Armenian-Azerbaijani relations require careful analysis.

But whatever reasons were behind the tragic events in the Ottoman Empire related to ethnic cleansing, and then the events in Soviet and post-Soviet Azerbaijan, the two Turkic states “decided” the Armenian question.

Also note that the Turkish-Armenian reconciliation is still a complex of relations between Ankara and Washington, Moscow and Yerevan. And here, an extremely important role is played by Iran, which enters with Russia and Turkey on the Syrian direction into the coalition.

Now it remains to wait for Ankara to “ripen” and will be ready to start at least a minimal interstate dialogue with Yerevan. As the negotiations progress, the negotiation process can expand and involve new levels and formats.

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