INTERWIEW | Johnny MELIKIAN, An Armenian Political Expert: “There is no need for a mediator, if the necessary steps will be taken on the Ankara-Yerevan Line”

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Succeeding the Second Karabakh War between Azerbaijan and Armenia; Turkey have had urged proposals for peace and cooperation to ensue within the region for a considerable number of times. Turkey did not hesitated to display its belief towards the idea that the platform whether it is quinary or senary suggested by Turkey itself will indeed tie the hearts up together alongside with the upcoming projects by pointing out that new opportunities are on the verge of appearing which will stimulate the transformations in South Caucasus only if the whole region is unified, as conceded in the trio declaration conducted between Russia, Armenia and Turkey back at the date of 2020, November 9. Within this context, despite the presence of opposing views and expectations; Turkey conveyed that a given sincere effort would lead to a liable action to take where states are engaging in good neighborly manners towards each other’s territorial integrity based on trust and respect. This specific matter continues to preserve its role within the current agenda and yet to be discussed.

Political Expert Jhonny Melikyan

The favorable calls made by Ankara with the aim of overthrowing the challenges in the region had also received a response by Nikol Pashinian, the Prime Minister of Armenia. Pashinian argued that Armenia is willing to give an effort in order to better the relations with Turkey. Although it may appear distinct to some, it is an undeniable fact that Turkey and Azerbaijan which are considered as brother countries in friendly relations are engaged within an interdependence towards Armenia. When looking at it from Armenia’s side, it is being argued that Armenia and Turkey relations should be considered separately from the relations between Azerbaijan and Armenia. Johnny G. Melikyan,** the Senior Expert of the Orbeli Center of the Prime Minister’s Office of the Republic of Armenia whose insights are received on the given topic stated that the process will not take place as smoothly as expected since there still exist some serious threads and issues to provide the peace in the region. 

Mr. Melikyan, we may claim that the Prime Minister of Republic of Armenia, Nikol Pashinian had responded to peace and cooperation calls for the first time. At the Council of Ministers meeting, Pashinian stated that it has been received positive signals by Ankara thus the response will take place the same as well. How do you evaluate the occurrence of the chain of events?

The agenda of establishing relations and contacts without preconditions is not a brand-new concept. We all recall the process of so-called “football diplomacy” and the reasons for failure which has nothing to do with Armenia. Also, the last calls for peace and cooperation should be estimated under the policy of good neighbourliness and pledges of ensuring peace with stability in the region, as it can be observed as one of the main purposes of the government from the 2021-2026 program conducted by the Republic of Armenia. However, one should never be under illusion that the process will flow easily and the national interests of Armenia and Artsakh will get damaged. Furthermore, there still occur serious threads and challenges in the region to be able to provide peace. It will be a challenge to fulfil the settled tasks without any of these being resolved. Not only the diplomatic relations of the two states but also these types of absent discourses where includes no contact will remain nothing more than just a statement of intent unless they are supported with practical steps and actions to abandon offensive expressions.

If Ankara forego the preconditions and initiate the contacts by all means with Erivan to get engaged in a relation with it, a number of peremptory processes may emerge in the medium term. However, I, then again, am repeating that the process of the starting initiative should involve no condition and the third parties must not influence this process. In this context, if I were to say by using a football language that it was Turkey who closed its territory with Armenia unilaterally, it is significant to indicate that it is on the “Turkish side of the ball”. I do not think we need any mediators to normalize the relations with Turkey.

If we take the Azerbaijan-Armenia relations into consideration, Prime Minister Pashinian stated recently through the last couple of days that it would be unlikely to imagine a process of normalization in the relations without an international monitoring mechanism and suggested that it should be CSTO or the co-chairs of OSCE Minsk Group who is taking the lead. OSCE Minsk Group or CSTO? Which one do you consider to be the more efficient one?

The statement of Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian regarding the initiative for an international monitory mechanism to be started is associated with the status of Armenia-Azerbaijan borders. I would like to emphasize that it is quite significant to find ways of division between conflict negotiations which will later to be conducted by OSCE Minsk Group and the negotiations regarding the future status of Artsakh alongside with the issues pertaining to Armenia-Azerbaijani borders and relations.

With regard to current challenges in Armenian-Azerbaijani relations such as the invasion of certain parts of Armenia by Azerbaijani troops on May[1] including its temporary presence, I believe the mechanism proposed by the Prime Minister can be operated by the co-chairs of OSCE Minsk Group.

As for the CSTO, the main purpose of the organization consists of collective defence and ensuring the territorial integrity of the member states of the organization.

Which challenges do you think it is necessary to tackle or what problems carry out the feature of easy solvability? What actions may render possible for peace to remain permanent? How do you evaluate the future status of Armenia with Turkey and Azerbaijan?

Considering the Armenia-Azerbaijani relations, I would like to say that there are plenty of issues at this point. In addition to the case of state borders that is previously stated, prisoners of war and other detainees are continued to be kept under Azerbaijan captivity even ten months after the cessation of military conflicts, in violation of one of the articles of the agreement dated 9-10 November 2020. It appears as a key factor for all the articles of the agreement to be fulfilled, prisoners of war to be released without any discriminative approach, all channels of communication to be made accessible to reach by also quitting hate speeches, stopping the thread of use of force besides withdrawing from Armenian territory which was occupied on May. At the end of the day, it will be rendered likely for mutual hatred to be decreased and current problems to reach at their resolutions and communication process to begin, as though difficult.

It is all quite simple and all in the context of Armenia-Turkey relations. A dialogue with no precondition to be started in equal terms to abolish the unilateral blockade of Armenia and to divide Armenian-Turkish relations from Armenian-Azerbaijani relations. (In this case, it will be Turkey-Azerbaijan relations.)  With this way, certain improvements may be achieved in the region that will pave the way for a positive effect to be created in a medium term.

Nikol Pashinian has presented the forthcoming 5 years plan of the Council of the Ministers. The National Assembly of the Republic of Armenia has approved the new program, although the literal acceptance of the document has come into realization during a chaotic environment in the Parliament. How do you assess the recent approved program?

The new program is same as most of the government programs of countries in the world. The program is the extension of the 2020 National Security Strategy initiated by the Security Council of Republic of Armenia on the topics of foreign relations and security space based on the new realities of post-war in the region. It structurally consists of one introduction part and six other parts which include the following: 1. Security and Foreign Policy; 2. Economy; 3. Development of Infrastructure; 4. Development of Human Resources; 5. Law and Justice; 6. Institutional Development.

As stated in the program, what considered to be the main priority for Armenia is to create an efficient national and an international atmosphere other than ensuring external security, providing the sovereignty and preserving the territorial integrity.

 Besides, it is being emphasized to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict to be resolved fairly. In the first part which seems to be concerns us, a place is given for the security factors of Armenia with the main priorities and expectations when conducting foreign policy. As it is being highlighted in the draft of the program, the following requirements to provide the security in the Republic of Armenia: 1. A modernized Armenia; 2. The strategic relations between Armenia-Russia 3. CSTO membership of the state; 4. Establishment of a stable regional government and abolishment of regional infrastructure barrier; 5. Co-chairmanship of the OSCE Minsk Group; 6. Proactive and effective foreign policy in all aspects. In regard to foreign policy, I shall emphasize the relations with Russia, USA, EU, neighbouring Georgia and Iran etc. at this very point.

The articles on our website are the personal opinions of the author and may not reflect the institutional view of Ankara Center for Crisis and Policy Research (ANKASAM).

** Senior Expert, Orbeli Center, Office of the Prime Minister of the Republic of Armenia; Johnny G. MELIKYAN

Johnny Melikyan studied at Russian-Armenian University, Department of International Relations, the Faculty of Political Science (2007), later continued his Postgraduate Studies in the Chair of World Politics and International Relations (2010).  From 2010 to 2012, he worked at Russian-Armenian University, the Faculty of Caucasus Studies and the Middle East, later at the Scientific Center for Regional Studies. From 2011 to 2013, he worked at Public Relations and Information Center at the Office of the Prime Minister of the RA. From 2016 to 2017, he worked in the Center for Political Studies within the Noravank Scientific Educational Foundation. Since 2014, he is a researcher at the Center for Political Studies of the RA Public Administration Academy. Since 2019, he works at Public Relations and Information Center at the Office of the Prime Minister. He is the co-author of a number of scientific articles and a book.

[1] On 2nd of May in 2021, according to the claim of Armenia; Azerbaijani troops has taken the control over the lands around the small lake which is located on the north of Armenia, in between the two countries’ border. (The lake in question is called “Black Lake” in Armenian and Azerbaijanian.) The following day, Nikol Pashnian demanded for Azerbaijani armies to retreat by stating almost 250 Azerbaijani soldiers were found in the regions of Syunik and Gegharkunik. According to the Foreign Ministry of Azerbaijan, the state who had failed earlier in ensuring the control over the region due to air conditions, “strengthens its security at the border, and this is being done in accordance with the maps maps available in Baku and Yerevan. Azerbaijan solely respects the sovereignty, territorial integrity and inviolability of its borders.”, (Date of Acession: 01.09.2021)

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.