Turkey’s economy is booming. GDP, being around 181 billion dollar in 2001; is estimated to be about 500 billion US dollar by the end of 2007. With the purchasing power parity (PPP) it will pass 750 billion US dollar. In other words, Turkey’s economy has grown almost three times in less than six years. The total volume of export was 31 billion dollar in 2001; by 2007 it passed 100 billion dollar. Furthermore growth in some sectors is quintuplicate. Turkey’s economy that was not able to allure foreign capital even in amount of 1-2 billion dollar in the past, now only in 2006 allured more that 20 billion dollars direct foreign capital. It is expected that for direct foreign investments to pass 20 billion dollar in 2007 too. Thus, Turkey became the 15. biggest economy in the world and 5. economy in Europe. Furthermore the process has not been stopped. It is foreseen that the growth speed will linger so on.
Neighbours of Turkey also benefit from Turkey’s fast economic growth. According to new foreign policy approach adopted in Turkey, “zero political problems with neighbouring countries is possible”. Moreover the new government gives priority to increase economic co-operation with neighbouring countries. From this stand point, it is worthy to note the significant increase of trade with the neighbour and near countries such as Israel, Russia, Iran, Syria, Bulgaria, Azerbaijan, Greece, Georgia and Central Asia countries. For instance foreign trade volume with Russia exceeded 20 billion dollar. When added tourism and investments, economic relations with Israel pass 10 billion dollar in 2007. Taking into considerations the bilateral investments and increasing speed of import-export, it can be easily seen that the role of neighbour countries and of near countries will increase in Turkey’s economy.
Contrary to some other countries, Turkey does not use its growing economic power as a threat in its external relations. It is usually accepted by Turkish policy-makers that economy and economic regional integration can be used as a tool in solution of the political problems. In this context, the most serious project for the solution of Palestine problem came from Turkey. Turkish businessmen will develop two separate industry areas in Palestine to contribute the peace efforts by decreasing employment problem in the country. The agreement has been signed last week by Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Ankara.
Similarly, building up the energy lines between the neighbours does not only have priority regarding to economic welfare but has also been seen very important in terms of increasing political stability. Azerbaijan’s oil is transported to the Turkey’s Mediterranean coasts via Georgia. Oil has been followed by gas export and Azeri gas is transported to Greece via Turkey. Efforts still continue on to bring the line till Italy. One another aim is to transport Turkomen gas to Turkey via Iran and lastly to Europe from Turkey. Some other projects are to transport Russian gas to Israel; Iraqi gas to Turkey and Europe; Egyptian gas to Turkey. Iraqi petrol is already transported to Mediterranean via Turkey pipelines. Taking into consideration the proposed billion-dollars-refinery investments in different places of Turkey, and other petro-chemical investment projects it is clear that more energy lines will pass through Turkey. Those lines do not only increase the economic welfare but also contribute regional economic integration in addition to contributing the decrease of problems in political area. For instance, the line that connects Turkey and Greece will effect bilateral relations positively.
Within this frame, there is only one country that is not affected by Turkey’s fast economic growth and efforts to have good relations with neighbouring countries: Armenia.
Armenia, which is a land-locked in Caucasus and has no significant natural resource, is a relatively poor country. It is unfortunate that its most of the borders with the neighbours have been closed for more than a decade thanks to the Armenian aggressive policies in the region. The only open borders are Georgia-Armenia and Iran-Armenia borders. However, the open borders are not enough to get access to the rest of the world. Iran is one of the most problematic country in international society and Georgia struggle with the domestic separatist problems and Russian involvement. Both economies cannot fulfil the Armenian economic needs. The only country can provide an access for the Armenians to the developed world is Turkey. However Armenia adopted more hawkish approach towards Turkey especially with the presidency of ultra-nationalist Robert Kocharyan. President Kocharyan, who was supported by Russia and the ultra-nationalist Tashnaks, started an anti-Turkish campaign in almost every country in the world instead of developing economic and political relations with Turkey. Armenia has supported all anti-Turkish campaigns organised by radical Armenian Diaspora institutions. Kocharyan and his friends naming the 1915 communal clashes between Turks, Kurds and Armenians as genocide, blamed Turkey and Turks of being enemies of Armenians. Though almost a century has passed over the events Mr. Kocharyan still puts this issue at the heart of the newly established Armenia’s foreign policy and combats against Turkey’s economic and political interests anywhere. Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan suggested establishing a commission to debate the historical claims but Yerevan refused this suggestion. Kocharyan has moreover been invited to Istanbul and he did not come to Turkey. None of the Turkish suggestions has been answered by Armenia till now. Armenian politicians just accuse and listens to nobody in the Armenian issue.
It is not possible for Armenia to harm Turkey with its current economic, political and military power. Its population is less than one fifth of Istanbul. Armenian economy is 50 times smaller than Turkish economy. Armenian military power can not even be compared with the Turkish one. Armenia is not strong enough to persuade Turkey by its own power, that’s why Armenia tries to manipulate the greater countries, such as Russia, France and US, against Turkey. Armenia expects at least to have parliamentary bills which support claims of Armenia within these countries by the effects of the Armenian Diasporas. This aim was reached in France. However, there is no development in terms of Armenian aims. Even some of the Turks who were not interested in Armenian claims in the past, now started to be against Armenia. The appropriate atmosphere among public opinion in Turkey to construct good relations with Armenia is being destroyed every day, and the most important factor is Armenian approach itself. Anyone in Turkey, even the Turkish Armenians, ‘knows’ that most of the Armenian population and most of the Armenian Diaspora people hate Turkish people. Under these circumstances nobody could expect any good will gesture from the Turkish public. Turkish Government has been under great public pressure about the Armenian issue. Though Turkish Government is ready to take great steps to put an end to the historical Armenian Issue, it cannot move while Armenia tries to undermine Turkish interests everywhere.
Indeed, the most and probably the only country have suffered as a result of these events is Armenia itself. The country is entirely isolated since its independency in 1991. All energy, communication and transportation lines by-passes Armenia. Although the most proper transit country for Azerbaijan-Turkey oil pipeline project was Armenia, Armenia was by-passed and Georgia, which was more expensive and risky route, was preferred. Likewise, although there is a railway between Turkey and Azerbaijan passing via Armenia, Armenia did not allow usage of this line and Turkey and Azerbaijan have to construct a new line between Turkey, Georgia and Azerbaijan. While Yerevan Airport becomes unimportant airport everyday, flights between Turkey-Georgia and Turkey-Azerbaijan become more frequent. It would not be a surprise if an express highway project appears between those countries in coming days. Moreover, as for trade, countries so-called support Armenia, prefer Turkey and Azerbaijan when they export or import. For instance on the one hand Russia supports Armenia regarding to its claims, on the other hand Turkey-Russia trading volume has exceeded 20 billion dollar. Turkish investments in Russia and Russian investments in Turkey grow rapidly. While Russia invades Armenian economy unilaterally, on the other hand Russia-Turkey economic relations ground on principle of equality. The position of France which did accept the Armenian historical claims within its parliament is the same. France while does not do investments in Armenia, it does constitutionalize Turkey as the centre of investment. Renault is one of the most prominent export factories in Turkey. The trade volume of Turkey-France is over 10 billion dollar in 2006. Examples can be multiplied. By the time, Armenia only receives promises from its allies while Turkey does make trade and investment. Similarly Azerbaijan’s trade and other economic activities with the US, Britain, Israel, France and other developed countries have been booming, while the Armenians just focus on the events happened almost 100 years ago. Azerbaijani economy has been integrated into the rest of the world while Armenia insists to occupy Karabakh’s rocky mountains. While Azerbaijan and Turkey become more developed and globalised countries, Armenia becomes more and more dependant country on Russian and Diaspora aids. While Russia invades Armenian economy, Diaspora dominate Armenian politics.
Karabagh is a mountainous region and its economic worthy is not valuable enough. Significant part of the population was Armenian even under the Azerbaijani government. If developments could have left to its progress about 100.000 Armenian would have taken the control of the region at the end of the day. In addition to the Karabagh Armenians, before the war there were significant numbers of Armenians in Baku. Some of the Armenian sources claim that the Armenian population in Azerbaijan was about 500.000. However, the effectiveness of the Baku Armenians was more than their actual population. By courtesy of its economic power Azerbaijan Armenians were able to develop political power. In other words, with 3 million population Armenia would have been more powerful in terms of both economic and political aspects thanks to the Armenians in Azerbaijan. Adding the Armenians in Georgia and Turkey, if Armenia could have good relations with its neighbours, then it would have been in very developed level in a comparison to now. In another word, if Armenia gave more importance to its regional diasporas to develop good relations with the region instead of US and Europe Armenian diasporas, there is no doubt that Armenia would have been more developed and powerful country.
However, nationalist Armenians have chosen war. Among with Karabagh, Armenian forces attacked to its close area Azerbaijan. In the end while Armenia occupied almost % 20 of Azerbaijan, 1 million Azeri people have been dislocated. With the war, hundred thousands of Armenians in Baku had to turn back to Armenia. Thereby, while Azerbaijan became one of the most homogenous countries, national consciousness in Azerbaijan has increased as a result of Armenian attacks. Azeris became a real nation thanks to the Armenian attacks. While Armenia lost the economic power of Armenians in Azerbaijan, it only gained a land with no natural resource. Moreover, with the closure of Turkey and Azerbaijan borders Armenians’ access to the world has significantly been cut. Population decreased from 3 million to 2 million in Armenia. Young people and qualified Armenians migrated to Russia, Europe and the US. In spite of that, Kocheryan is not able to manage even this small land with smaller population; and continued to demand more and more land from the Turks. Armenian constitution still does not recognize Turkey’s borders. Nationalist groups that demand lands from Turkey and Azerbaijan are still powerful. Tashnaks who are willing to take ‘revenge’ from Turks determine the administration. The power of Diaspora over the Government increases every day. Tashnaks and Diaspora nationalists are happy. They enjoy Armenian identity by harming Armenia. How much Armenia lost that much Armenian diaspora is happy. The victimization is at the heart of Armenian identity in the diaspora and any solution to the Armenian issue will harm Armenian diaspora. The best solution for the diaspora is the continuation all od the problems with the Turks.
In conclusion, Armenian persistency costs too much for Armenia. Because of its meaningless persistency, even ‘allies’ of Armenia are not able to help the Armenians. For instance the U.S and the EU can not even find areas for cooperation with Armenia. The country which is surrounded by more than 100 million Turks cannot solve its economic or political problems by declaring the Turks as enemy of Armenians. Under these circumstances it is not clear how long more can Armenia sustain. However, it is hard to say that the situation goes bad for Turkey or Azerbaijan.
24 November 2007
Translated by Habibe Kader and Neslihan Tuğçe