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Normalization Debates on Ankara-Yerevan Line

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Recently, various news and analyses have been published that a new normalization process will begin between Turkey and Armenia. Without any normalization steps, it is conspicuous that even such a possibility remains heavily on the agenda. Yet, this normalization is in still only realm of possibility, it is noteworthy that is attempted to be prohibited. By reason of this, it is seen that under the name of some news analyses, the concerns arising from the 2008 experience came to the fore, certain segments of the international society are biased towards the steps to-be-taken and trying to give an end to this process in the eyes of the public.

However, although the initiative process that marked 2008 and bring the president of two countries together, “Football Diplomacy” was unsuccessful, it’s known that the objective of that time meant well. But in today, a much more favourable conjunction has been occurring in the region at the point of normalization. Due to this reason, new processes that may happen in the region redemption from the 2008 event.

The obvious question to ask is: If Germany and France, who confront each other in World War II, managed to normalize and take place together in the European Union (EU), if Russia and China could cooperate despite the geopolitical competition, and even if the Beijing-Islamabad duo, one of the most significant rivals of the power struggle in South Asia, will to act together by setting common goals within the framework of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) can be demonstrated, why can’t the two nations, who have lived together in peace for hundreds of years, not succeed?

It should not be forgotten that states have no permanent friends or enemies, it is the interest that only matters.  At this point, when the regional developments are analysed with a pragmatic approach, it is understood that the establishment of powerful regional cooperation to achieve the interests and expectations of the region as well as the Ankara and Yerevan line. Because the Second Karabakh War, which lasted for 44 days, changed the status quo in the South Caucasus and ended the occupation in Karabakh, which was one of the main obstacles to the normalization of Turkey with Armenia. Therefore, now Therefore, it is time to take new steps that prioritize economic gains.

Indeed, the “Six-way Cooperation Platform” proposal, put on the agenda by Turkey on 10 December 2020, has the feature of being the first concrete call for such an initiative Moreover, on the same date, the President of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev, made a similar statement. Thereby, there is no such thing as an Azerbaijani barrier to stand in front of Turkey-Armenia normalization. So, concerns relevant to this matter is unjustifiable.

Furthermore, diversified negotiations are already being held between Baku and Yerevan and various mechanisms operating. A normalization process which may begin on the Ankara-Yerevan line can also play a soothing role in the Baku-Yerevan line. Besides, it can accelerate the normalization process across the region by virtue of all parties support the formation of a cooperation ground on which transportation and energy corridors will be built up in the region.

Accordingly, Baku will not act against the possible normalization process between Turkey and Armenia as, in the past, is foreseeable. The relations between Baku and Ankara have no room for such disbelief in any case because of the parties declared their mutual trust and strategic cooperation status to the whole world on the occasion of the Shusha Declaration.

Having all these in mind, it is avowable that Six-way Cooperation Platform must be implemented. In the current situation, there are already positive relations between Turkey, Azerbaijan and Georgia. In the aftermath of the Karabakh War, the indirect messages of Armenia about inclusion in this positive atmosphere are notable. For this reason, the possibility of a regional platform consisting of four states in the first stage and in which the other two states will participate in time has become a stronger need compared to past.

As mentioned before, Yerevan also seeks to normalize relations, ensure the opening of the border gates and make diplomatic contacts. The statements of Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan clearly show that his country cannot cope with a new conflict. Moreover, the fact that the Armenian people gave Pashinyan another chance despite the defeat in the Second Karabakh War, clearly reveals that the people also do not want war.

In summary, Yerevan is aware that the demands of the diaspora living in wealth impoverish the Armenian people. Diaspora has turned the “Armenian Question” into an industry. In addition, it is obvious that the current situation with Turkey makes Armenia to turn to the West more difficult and increases its dependence on Russia.

The Pashinyan administration gives various messages about normalization due to his attempt to build an independent, prosperous and strong Armenia by conducting multi-faceted diplomacy. At this point, For Armenia, Turkey is not just a gate opening to the West. In other words, Yerevan, on the one hand, accepts Turkey’s centralizing role in the Caucasus and does not want to stay out of regional cooperation processes; On the other hand, it believes that the prerequisite for developing intensive cooperation with Europe is normalization with Turkey.

When normalization is mentioned, the idea of mediation comes to mind. The point that should be emphasized in this regard is that Ankara and Yerevan should be able to sit around the same table -without needing any mediation. Such a situation may also prevent third parties from sabotaging the process. Thus, it is crucial that the possible rapprochement between the two countries should not be abided by the decisions of third parties.

At this stage, Russia’s message to play a mediator role between Turkey and Armenia probably has not been escaping from the attention of Yerevan. After all, a new status quo emerged in the region due to Second Karabakh War. This means that there is a very different conjuncture than in 2008. The conjuncture in question makes regional cooperation a historical obligation. In other words, there is a convenient ground for taking normalization steps and breaking some taboos on the Ankara-Yerevan line.

As an inevitable result of the reality of international relations, why should it be a problem for the parties to operate the diplomacy mechanism in this favourable conjuncture? And more importantly, why should some people be bothered by the resolution of problems between neighbours?

Dr. Doğacan BAŞARAN
ANKASAM Uluslararası İlişkiler Uzmanı