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Armenian Human Rights Activist Işhan Verdiyan: “If Relations Tend to Normalize, They Will Develop in All Directions.”

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The Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict, which had hindered security and stability in the South Caucasus for many years, was resolved after the Second Karabakh War, which lasted for 44 days. Despite the fact that one year has passed since the end of the conflicts, the expected result has not yet been achieved in the determination of the borders between the two countries and the opening of the Zangezur Corridor. Moreover, the search for normalization in the region is gaining a new concrete dimension. In this context, the statement of the Spokesperson of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Armenia,Vuhan Hunanyan, in November 23, 2021, stating that they are ready for normalization with Turkey without preconditions, has drawn attention.

According to this sense, the Ankara Crisis and Politics Center (ANKASAM) brings to your attention the views of Armenian human rights activist İşhan Verdiyan on the developments in Turkey-Armenia and Azerbaijan-Armenia.

– Mr. Verdiyan, Spokesperson of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Armenia Hunanyan stated that there is currently no negotiation process with Turkey; however, he declared that Armenia was ready for negotiations without any preconditions. How do you evaluate this development?

Actually, I believe it is too late for such developments. Nevertheless, I welcome these steps though. However, I have a skeptical approach to every statement made by the Armenian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. I think that the Armenian Ministry of Foreign Affairs is only on paper. The fact that Armenia has not been able to improve relations with Turkey, which is the most economically and militarily strongest state among its five border neighbors in the 30 years since its independence, or at least has not been able to establish a dialogue, shows the ineffectiveness of the Armenian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. This is because we are talking about the inability of Armenia to establish relations with a state with which it shares a border of 328 km. Still, I think it should be appreciated because we have not heard such statements before. We will see how the developments will progress in the coming days.

– What role do you think Russia plays in the normalization of Armenia-Turkey relations?

I believe that these two neighboring countries should handle the normalization process of Armenia-Turkey relations and that they can agree on the difficulties they will face with the will to put forward for peace. In fact, Armenians living in Turkey can act as translators in meetings among themselves. In other words, in the process of normalizing bilateral relations, the potential of the Armenian community living in Turkey, whose number is measured at 10 thousand, can be used. In other words, Turkish Armenians can be a bridge on the Ankara-Yerevan line.

As for the role of Russia in the normalization of relations, this issue also depends on the internal politics of Armenia. The normalization of Yerevan’s relationship with Ankara is something Moscow also wants. This is because there is a huge Russian investment in Armenia and the instability in the country poses a threat to Russia, at least in this sense. However, I believe it is useful to repeat; everything depends on the balances in Armenia’s domestic politics. So today Nikol Pashinyan paints a different picture. Some of the agreements can be made. But the situation may change if Robert Kocharian, the strongest opposition leader, becomes Prime Minister. This is the reason why Pashinyan is a candidate that the Kremlin does not trust. However, this table is valid only for Russia. There is no reason why other states, especially Turkey, should not trust him.

– Well then, what kind of results should be expected from the talks of Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan in Brussels on 15 December 2021?

Disputes between Azerbaijan and Armenia are not just an event that concerns both sides. The issue is one in which states that are not geographically located in the region are also involved and it is not possible to proceed without an agreement with the parties in question. For this reason, it is difficult to predict what the results of the bilateral meeting will be. However, this situation does not mean that Baku and Yerevan do not have their own expectations and goals. Yet, many issues depend on these two states. However, the solution does not depend only on two actors. In short, there are many details that are not yet known or that we do not know.

– Yerevan has decided to use the Eastern Partnership Summit Platform instead of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Minsk Group in negotiations with Baku. In your opinion, what are the reasons that convinced Pashinyan, who insisted on continuing the negotiations within the framework of the OSCE Minsk Group?

If I were Pashinyan, I would definitely give up on insisting that the negotiations be conducted within the framework of the OSCE Minsk Group. The OSCE Minsk Group, to which a large amount of resources and opportunities were provided, could not solve a problem that could be solved in 10 minutes with a phone call, in 30 years. In a word, no necessary steps were taken; on the contrary, the process is frozen. In this sense, I absolutely do not accept the format proposed by the OSCE Minsk Group.

– What do you think that the relations between Turkey-Armenia and Azerbaijan-Armenia would progress in the near future?

I believe that there are many details about this subjects that we will not have been informed yet. I believe if the relations became normalized, this would happen without the distinction of Turkey-Armenia or Azerbaijan-Armenia and the relations would cultivate in all directions. For this reason, I think that every detail in the agreements that will be reached is going to be evaluated. In fact, Pasinyan must recognize the Azerbaijan’s terrirorial integrity officially. Azerbaijan and Turkey supported Armenia historically. In this sense, Armenian people are unfair to Turkish people. This needs to be understood.

– How do you evaluate the silence of the Armenian diaspora on this issue?

Actually, the diaspora is not silent. There are lobbying centers whose voices are still loud. However, they represent the ideas of Armenians living in the country they are in. I believe that the rights of our esteemed citizens living abroad are protected by the relevant states. The attitude of the Diaspora in no way reflects the views of the Armenian people and the current Armenian Government. Lobbyists act in the interests of the states in which they live to strengthen their own positions. That’s why, even if they try to influence the Yerevan administration, I think that only the interests of the Armenian people will be taken into account in the decisions to be adopted.

An interview on our website is the personal opinion of the human rights activist and may not reflect the institutional view of Ankara Center for Crisis and Policy Research (ANKASAM).

The original version of this interview was published on The Asia Today on 03.12.2021.

Click to access the full text of the article: https://theasiatoday.org/interviews/armenian-human-rights-activist-ishan-verdiyan-if-relations-tend-to-normalize-they-will-develop-in-all-directions-without-distinction-between-azerbaijan-armenia-and-turkey-armenia/

Ülviye FİLİYEVA ERKEÇ
Ülviye FİLİYEVA ERKEÇ-Lisans eğitimini Bakü Devlet Üniversitesi Gazetecilik Bölümü’nde tamamlayan Ülviye Filiyeva Erkeç, aynı zamanda Karabük Üniversitesi Uluslararası İlişkiler Bölümü’nden de mezun olmuştur. Yüksek lisans derecesini, Aksaray Üniversitesi Kent Sosyolojisi Programı’nda sunduğu “Türk ve Rus Basınındaki Algılanışı ile Türkiye’ye Evlilik Yolu ile Göç Olgusu” başlıklı tezle elde eden Erkeç, Karabük Üniversitesi Uluslararası İlişkiler Anabilim Dalı Bölge Çalışmaları Bilim Dalı’ndaki yüksek lisans eğitimini de sürdürmektedir. Filiyeva Erkeç, ileri seviyede İngilizce, Rusça, Avarca ve Azerbaycan Türkçesi bilmektedir. ANKASAM bünyesinde yürütülen çalışmalara katkıda bulunan Filiyeva Erkeç, Orta Asya ve Kafkasya bölgelerine yönelik akademik çalışmalarını sürdürmektedir.