Notwithstanding all risks, President Abdullah Gul’s visit to Armenia ended as a success story in all aspects. Turkey reiterated and proved its peaceful stance and give positive signals to Armenia. Sarkisyan accepted Turkey’s invitation and this may be seen as the first consequence of the visit. And of course there will be reciprocal visits of lower level officials. Especially, the Armenian side does not seem to wait until the next match for paying these visits. They are planning an extensional diplomatic action towards Turkey. As we know, Ankara is already waiting for such move that improving relations with Armenia is the primary objective of the AKP government.
Armenia faced with a huge economic burden especially after the Russia-Georgia conflict through destruction of its railroads and highways. More important than that this conflict ceased Armenian ties with the rest of the world. Armenia acknowledged that its dependence to Georgia to connect rest of the world is no longer sustainable. Dependence to unstable Georgia means the risk of disruption of the everyday life order in Armenia at eruption of a new conflict in the area. Armenia may even collapse without an Azerbaijani attack because of its collapsed economy via ceased exports and imports which are crucial for the sustenance of everyday life. An Azerbaijani attack in these circumstances probably ends the existence of Armenia. Even though the Russia sends help to Armenia it may find nothing to save or just save a country that is gone 15 year backwards.
Under these circumstances the primary objective for Armenia is to open a new line for its lifeblood. This is why Sarkisyan named their first goal as “re-opening the Kars-Gümrü railroad” before Gul’s visit. However, Armenian recognition of Turkish borders is a precondition of improvement of Armenia-Turkish relations. Armenia cannot expect normalizations of the relations before recognizing its neighbor’s borders. Moreover, it cannot turn the page with the meaningless discourse of “we do not have any preconditions for beginning the talks with Turkey.” Turkey expects Armenia to omit the “Western Armenia” phrase from its declaration of independence document which is also a part of its constitution. Or instead Turkey at least expects a formal declaration from Armenia that indicates its recognition and respect for Turkish borders. In my opinion Turkey may get this recognition in a short time period because Armenian officials were saying that there is no problem about this issue and they are using this only as a bargaining chip. I hope the Armenian side has seen that this is not putting Armenia in a stronger position in negotiations instead ceasing the communication with Turkey.
In short, the first expectation for rapprochement is Armenian recognition of Turkish borders. Opening borders for trade will probably take more time. The airlines are open to flights anyway and if Turkey opens the railroad and highway lines too that means bestowing all Armenia wants altogether. This will give a position to Armenia that is even better than Azerbaijan even. Armenia will be able to connect the world economically through three alternative countries of Georgia, Iran and Turkey, whereas Azerbaijan can connect to world just through Georgia (partially through Iran). This is a huge reward for Armenia and there is a long list of tasks to deserve that. The first and foremost item of the list is Karabakh and other Azerbaijani territories under Armenian occupation.
14 September 2008
Translated by Mehmet Yegin