After the Second Karabakh War, the normalization process between Turkey, Azerbaijan, and Armenia began to be discussed and came from the parties sending positive messages of cooperation. Even if the discussion of a new process that will bring peace and stability to the region is promising for the future, normalization is known to present some challenges.
In this context, the Ankara Crisis and Politics Center (ANKASAM) presents to your attention the views of Rusif Huseynov, who is the head of the Topçubaşov Center, one of the thinking center operating in Azerbaijan in the context of the search for regional cooperation and stability.
Rusif Huseynov, Co-founder and Director of Topçubaşov Thinking Center, received his B.A. from Baku State University and his M.A. from University of Tartu. While his main areas of interest are socio-political developments in post-Soviet countries, frozen conflicts, and ethnic minorities, his focus areas mainly cover Eastern Europe, the Middle East, the Caucasus and Central Asia.
Mr. Rusif, after the 44-day war between Armenia and Azerbaijan, what steps do you think the sides should take to establish peace and stability in the region?
Establishing peace, reconciliation and stability in the region requires combined efforts of all regional countries. Yet, the major role here belongs to Armenia. The sooner Yerevan accepts the post-war realities and recognizes the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan and Turkey (we still here narratives on Wilsonian Armenia in the Armenian society), the greater the chances for peace and stability are.
In its turn, Azerbaijan can also extend a hand to Armenia and offer economic projects that would bring dividends for the latter, a landlocked country with limited resources. The connectivity projects could be a preliminary step in this regard before the parties can reach a stage at which bilateral trade and commercial projects are also launched.
What do you think are the main conditions for the normalization of Azerbaijan-Armenian-Turkish relations? Will it be possible to reach a common point on this issue?
We can separate Armenian-Azerbaijani and Armenian-Turkish normalization as two parallel, but intertwined processes.
As already stated above, the preconditions for the normalization between Armenia and Azerbaijan, the former should recognize Azerbaijan`s territorial integrity and start the demarcation of state borders. To further boost the rapprochement, Armenia can also contribute to the reintegration of Karabakh`s Armenian community into Azerbaijan and engage in connectivity projects.
The normalization between Armenia and Turkey is also related to the situation in Azerbaijan. Moreover, Ankara does want certain claims from the Armenian side either to be removed or to be relegated into other domains, not political.
In both cases, Armenia is the one who needs the improvement of the relations with its neighbors and open its eastern and western borders. Thus, Yerevan should be more interested in this process.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced that Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan had requested a meeting with himself through Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibaşvili. How do you evaluate this step of Pashinyan?
As the leader of a small, landlocked and demoralized country with limited resources, Nikol Pashinyan realizes very well the situation Armenia has trapped herself into over the years. Due to its aggressive policy against Azerbaijan, Yerevan has been left out of the vital regional projects. Armenia needs to open its borders with both Azerbaijan and Turkey, receive a new breath. Increasing dependence of the post-war Armenia on Russia also requires some counterbalancing by Yerevan; in this context, good ties with Turkey can offer good opportunities to Armenia. However, it should be noted that there is no need for a mediator in both Turkey-Armenia and Azerbaijan-Armenia relations. In order to normalize relations, it should be possible to negotiate without third actors.
How do you evaluate the “6 platform” that Turkey put forward with the desire to increase the common cooperation between the region and neighboring countries, to perpetuate the peace and to unite the peoples?
Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the region has experienced only conflicts, both frozen and active, instability and other problems stemming from the first two. For years such a situation, the weak and fragmented region, could be in the very interests of certain external actors.
In this context, the 3+3 regional cooperation format proposed by the Turkish leadership is an important initiative in the name of peace and stability in the Caucasus. In fact, three of the regional countries, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey, have already set a great model of political and economic cooperation. This experience could serve as a template for the future projects in the Caucasus.
Both Erdogan and Aliyev state that the opportunities brought by regional cooperation are in the interest of all states. How do you think other regional powers approach this process?
Although both Azerbaijani and Turkish leaders have offered a good platform, the 3+3 regional cooperation format, its implementation faces a lot of challenges: e.g. the existing problems between Armenia and Azerbaijan or Georgia and Russia.
Moreover, Russia, who traditionally considers the South Caucasus its own backyard, and Iran, which already feels uncomfortable with the growing role of Turkey in the region, may not be happy with the offered framework.
Nevertheless, this format could at least launch a dialogue in the form of annual summits of officials from all 6 countries. This could be the most important and tangible step in this direction.
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).