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[E] Can Turkey Salvage Sabotaged Relations with Armenia?

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 PostPosted: Wed May 12, 2004 10:25 am    Post subject: [E] Can Turkey Salvage Sabotaged Relations with Armenia? Reply with quote Back to top

Turkey: Can Turkey Salvage Sabotaged Relations with Armenia?
Posted on Monday, May 10 @ 17:40:00 EDT by CDeliso

Armenia’s president, Robert Kocharian, will not appear at the NATO summit of 27-29 June to be held in Istanbul, owing to the continued political alienation between his country and its historic nemesis to the west.

While signs seemed encouraging not long ago that Turkey might end its 11-year blockade and open the border with Armenia, that possibility was unceremoniously quashed by continued bellyaching from Baku.

Azerbaijan has demanded that its historic allies and ethnic kin, the Turks, support it over the intractable Nagorno-Karabakh dispute. For the Azerbaijanis, Turkey’s opening the border before a settlement has been reached would be tantamount to betrayal. According to an article published today,

“…Turkey signaled last year its readiness to reopen its border with Armenia before a Karabakh settlement -- a move which would please the United States and the European Union but would jeopardize its close ties with Azerbaijan. Some Armenian sources involved in contacts with Turkish officials said earlier this year that the decision to lift the 11-year blockade might be announced during the NATO summit.

However, Kocharian’s decision not to travel to Istanbul suggests that the reopening of the Turkish-Armenian border is still not on the cards.”

Armenian presidential press secretary Ashot Kocharian hastened to add that the decision “…has nothing to do with the Armenia-NATO relationship which is currently on the rise.” He mentioned Armenia’s participation in the U.S.-led alliance’s Partnership for Peace program. A less senior official than President Kocharian will make the trip, and it is hoped that tripartite peace talks will be held on the sidelines of the summit.

According to the same article,

“…Turkish leaders reportedly assured Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliev last month that they will continue to link the normalization of relations with Armenia to a pro Azerbaijani solution to the Karabakh dispute. ‘It is out of the question for now to reopen the Turkish-Armenian border,’ Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul said afterward.”

According to Gul, “…such a thing [opening the border before a settlement] is not the issue. For some reason, this is spoken about a great deal in Azerbaijan. Whenever we come across Azeri reporters they ask us this question.”

However, given the longstanding nature of the dispute and the likelihood that no solution will satisfy Baku’s desires, the Turks will probably be waiting a long time to normalize relations with Armenia. Which is too bad for them, considering that having friendly relations with one’s neighbors is looked upon as a big plus by the European Union, which Turkey hopes to join someday.

So what, then, do the Turks get for their endless support for Azerbaijan’s territorial pretensions? Aside from a sort of patriotic satisfaction, not very much.

Some in Turkey can see that they’re getting a raw deal. Besides hindering its drive towards EU membership, Turkey’s uncompromising support for Baku is unhelpful because it is not reciprocated. The newspaper Radikal recently reflected on why Azerbaijan, purported to be such a close ally, has not done more to support the self-declared “Turkish Republic of North Cyprus,” considering the similarities between this situation and the Nagorno-Karabakh one:

“…The issue also carries a geopolitical aspect. The TRNC is a concrete form of separation in the context of international relations and was formed unilaterally as a result of military intervention by Turkey. However, today’s geopolitics frowns on separatism, micro-nationalism and political formations based on ethnicity excepting where there is mutual consent. On the contrary, today’s geopolitics favors integration based upon democracy, political equali
ty and economic sharing. This is another political reason why the TRNC is not recognized. The interests and policies of countries faced with splits or threatened by separation are in line with this geopolitics.

One of those countries is Azerbaijan, with its problem of upper Karabakh. The serious problem faced by Baku is that 20% of its land is currently occupied by Armenia and the upper Karabakh separatist movement. Therefore, the Azerbaijani representatives in the European Council’s Parliament were leaning towards not recognizing the TRNC. ‘The Parliament vote would mean recognizing the TRNC,’ said one Azerbaijani official. ‘This would set a risky precedent for the future recognition of the administration in upper Karabakh.’ This development should remind Turkey that in international relations there is no friendship or brotherhood, but only interests.”[read more]

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