Economic Statecraft
Armenia and Turkey: Rapprochement 3.0?

Given the post-war realities and the pressure coming from different capitals, the Armenian authorities must slow down, take into account the institutional realities and capabilities within Armenia, and correctly analyse the primary and secondary layers of the statements coming from Turkey, writes Dr. Vahram Ter-Matevosyan, Program Chair of Political Science and International Affairs program, American University of Armenia.

The defeat in the 45-day war of 2020 has challenged the foundations of Armenia’s security architecture. The trilateral ceasefire statement of November 9, 2020, followed by months of unnerving domestic turmoil, professed a guaranteed demise for Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and his government. However, the snap parliamentary elections on June 20 helped him emerge from what many had considered an unpreventable “political Armageddon”. Winning the elections, however, did not protect him from the need to face pressing issues like negotiating for the return of prisoners of war (POWs) from Azerbaijan, border security problems, rebuilding the tarnished army, starting the demarcation and delimitation of the border with Azerbaijan, restarting the negotiations on the status and security of Nagorno Karabakh, and containing Azerbaijan’s tough posturing vis-a-vis Armenia’s borders.

Modern Diplomacy
Thaw in Turkish-Armenian Relations: A Hopeful Beginning?
Ilter Turan
The fact that Prime Minister Pashinyan achieved a major electoral victory afterwards and the ensuing policy shift suggests that the Armenian electorate may be more interested in peace and prosperity than in pursuing irredentist foreign policy adventures, writes Ilter Turan, Emeritus Professor of International Relations at Istanbul Bilgi University.

No less pertinent is the question of Armenia’s relations with Turkey, Azerbaijan’s pivotal ally in its recent war against Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh. Turkey has refused to establish diplomatic relations with Armenia and has kept the border closed since 1991. Months after the 2020 war, Pashinyan stated that Armenia is ready to embrace an era of peace in the South Caucasus region. For months, there was no visible progress as Armenia received mixed reactions from Turkey, complete with a set of preconditions and demands. However, weeks ago, both countries appointed envoys who would work on the normalisation of relations. What is going on between Armenia and Turkey? Are they embarking on another process of rapprochement? What are the chances for it to succeed this time, considering the previous failed cases of rapprochement in 1992-93 and 2008-09?

Contrary to the constructive interpretations that Armenia’s government has recently advanced, Turkey's position on its relations with Armenia has not changed since 1991. On the surface, Turkey ascertains the following condition: “in the absence of any improvement in Armenian-Azerbaijani relations, any progress to be achieved within the Turkish-Armenian normalisation process alone would remain insufficient and would not be lasting or sustainable”, implying that the pro-Azerbaijani resolution of the Karabakh conflict is the only precondition for normalisation. Armenia, meanwhile, has viewed the normalisation of interstate relations with Turkey from the perspective of the logic established in the early 1990s: a) relations should be normalised without any preconditions; b) the Karabakh conflict, involving Azerbaijan and Armenia, should be decoupled from the Armenian-Turkish relations.

For Turkey, the Karabakh issue was, indeed, the most discussed and voiced precondition over the decades, however, it remains only one of the preconditions. The shadow of history looms large over relation between the two nations. First and foremost, Turkey continues to view the normalisation of relations with Armenia from the point of view of unsettled historical-political legacies, followed by Turkey’s long-term interests in the Caucasus and geopolitical objectives. Hence, the Karabakh conflict lags behind several fundamental issues in the Armenian-Turkish and Armenia-Turkey relations that I have raised over the last 15 years and summarised in the recent academic article.

Over the last decades, using various platforms and opportunities, Ankara has raised several preconditions for Armenia to comply with, which included but were not limited to the following:

  • the Republic of Armenia and Diaspora should halt the worldwide campaign to recognise the Genocide and renounce any claims to land and property compensations and reparations from Turkey;

  • Turkey periodically insists on Armenia acknowledging the existing border with Turkey according to the 1921 Kars treaty;

  • Armenia should recognise Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity and, thereby, close the Karabakh chapter;

  • Turkey periodically entertains — sometime through Azerbaijan (Aliyev demanded that Armenia adopt a new constitution) — the idea that Armenia should revise its Declaration of Independence adopted in 1990 (and Constitution of 1995), as the document indicates that the Armenian Genocide was committed in Western Armenia, which is the present-day eastern region of Turkey;

  • Turkey occasionally demands the closing down of Armenia’s Metsamor Nuclear Power Station, which is located a few kilometers from the Armenian-Turkish border.

  • Turkey has recently started to reintroduce another precondition which it failed to achieve a century ago: establishing a corridor between the Nakhichevan Autonomous Republic, an exclave of Azerbaijan, and mainland Azerbaijan through Armenia’s sovereign territory in the Syunik province in the south.

In essence, Armenia and Turkey continue to speak in different languages because the gap that has widened over the decades cannot be closed under the influence of suppositious claims about regional peace and stability. It is not accidental that Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan speaks about the gradual normalisation of relations, while Pashinyan is in a hurry to escape Armenia’s regional isolation as soon as possible. Turkey’s president insists on a lack of trust towards Armenia’s government and needs for the depoliticisation of history, while the Armenian prime minister speaks of Armenia becoming a crossroads in connecting the east to the west and the north to the south. Given the post-war realities and the pressure coming from different capitals, the Armenian authorities must slow down, take into account the institutional realities and capabilities within Armenia, and correctly analyse the primary and secondary layers of the statements coming from Turkey. Yerevan should learn from the achievements and slips of the last 30 years. Taking into account Turkey’s assertive ambitions in the South Caucasus and its plan to promote its 2020 “3+3” initiative, which was a slightly revised version of its own the 2008 Caucasus Stability Platform, it is unpromising to talk to Turkey with the expectation of becoming a co-author of peace in the region. Turkey has been blockading Armenia for 30 years and hindering its development without bearing any responsibility for its wrongdoings. Pashinyan, in turn, has crossed the point of no return in his policy of advancing “an era of peaceful development in the region”. There are all the indications that he is eager to open the borders at nearly any cost. Turkey has spoken and will continue to talk to Armenia in the language of preconditions, as long as Armenia demonstrates haste in breaking the deadlock.

Even if the parties make a breakthrough and establish diplomatic relations, Turkey’s policy of advancing preconditions will not cease, making it a difficult partner to work with.

The aforementioned explicit and implicit preconditions will remain in Turkey’s foreign policy agenda. Those preconditions are too complex and firmly intertwined to untangle them with ease. In one form or another, they will feature in the future relations. To counteract, Armenia should advance the formula “normalisation first, reconciliation afterwards” and never repeat the mistakes of the Zurich protocols, which aimed at launching the two processes simultaneously.

There are serious doubts as to whether Armenia’s ruling party has sufficient resources to initiate parallel processes with Azerbaijan and Turkey, and many voices in the opposition and expert community question the wisdom of Pashinyan’s agenda. According to them, Armenia’s PM fails to grasp that the sporadic movements aimed at simultaneously embracing the agenda of peace with Azerbaijan and normalising interstate relations with Turkey without facing the political ramifications of the recent war and clarifying the questions of status and security of Nagorno-Karabakh are erroneous and risky. The fact of the matter is that the Russian peacekeepers in Karabakh and the joint Russian-Turkish Monitoring Centre do not have an international mandate and the prospects of peace remain fragile and elusive. Another pertinent question is whether, in addition to political ambitions and will, the Armenian government has sufficient professional-bureaucratic support — including from Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs — support advancing the process and withstand internal and external pressures? The question remains whether Pashinyan has pragmatically considered the anticipated gains versus the price Armenia will pay for embarking on this policy avenue. Does he clearly understand how his government will communicate Armenia’s grievances and accounts to the Turkish political elite and people? These questions beg for honest and open answers and this is where asking for advice and support will do no harm.

Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict: Delayed Resolution and Russia’s Interests
Sergey Markedonov
It is extremely important for Moscow to navigate between Scylla and Charybdis, maintaining a balance in relations with Armenia and Azerbaijan as well as with Turkey and Iran, and with partners in the OSCE Minsk Group. There is no rational need to create additional tensions with the West over Karabakh until (and if) the United States and its allies begin to revise the currently fragile consensus with Russia, Valdai Club expert Sergey Markedonov writes.

Russia’s stance on the Armenian-Turkish question is instrumental. Even though Moscow supports the Armenian-Turkish normalisation efforts and has made several statements and taken tangible steps, its assertions about a peaceful era in the region sound premature. With time, Moscow, slowly yet with tacit resistance, has shared various areas of strategic importance with Turkey. Turkey’s watchful posturing in the Caucasus and its control over certain economic, business, culture, infrastructure, and security sectors is slowly expanding and seems irreversible. How candid is Russia in supporting yet another display of Turkey’s expansion in the region if Turkey agrees to normalise relations with Armenia and open the border? The agenda of Russian-Turkish bilateral relations has become too diverse, yet the formula that both embrace – cooperation through competition or “frenmity” – continues to defy their complex relations in different parts of Eurasia and Africa. Armenia and the South Caucasus are no exceptions. Russia’s pre-conceived red lines in the post-Soviet space are becoming more and more blurry in the face of Turkey’s creeping geopolitical expansion. How long Russia can continue to counterbalance Turkey’s encroachment in the South Caucasus, Central Asia, Ukraine, and elsewhere remains a principal question among both politicians and policy experts.

The European Union, on the other hand, is a yet another primary stakeholder in the process of normalising relations between Armenia and Turkey. Brussels will be able to restore its tarnished reputation in Armenia in the face of its underperformance during the 45-day war and its aftermath, as well as the tolerance it has showed towards the forms of transgression of Pashinyan’s government since 2018. Washington, too, is in a position to extend its support to Yerevan, should the normalisation process go forward. The American government has constantly advocated for the normalisation of bilateral relations and the opening of the border. Secretary Blinken has also reaffirmed the US stance; however, Armenia’s government needs lasting support to overcome existing and potential challenges when talking to Turkey.

Conflict and Leadership
Russia and Turkey After the Crisis in Nagorno-Karabakh
Maxim Suchkov, Andrey Sushentsov
The two countries realised early on that in the era of the de-Westernisation of the international system, Russia could become a resource for strengthening Turkey’s own strategic sovereignty, while Turkey could lend Russia the authority of a great power amid the erosion of the monolithic position of the West, write Valdai Club experts Maxim Suchkov and Andrey Sushentsov.
Views expressed are of individual Members and Contributors, rather than the Club's, unless explicitly stated otherwise.