President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s statements on regional cooperation and relations with Armenia at the dinner given to foreign mission chiefs within the framework of the 950th anniversary of the Manzikert Victory on August 25, 2021, and then the views of the Armenian authorities on this statement were once again a reflection of the Turkish-Armenian relations. highlighted the need for in-depth evaluation.
As it will be remembered, President Erdogan; (i) Turkey has shown that it has no interest in anyone’s lands, sovereignty, underground and aboveground riches, with both words and actions, (ii) has taken many steps to resolve regional tensions peacefully, (iii) Armenian occupation on Azerbaijani lands. He stated that a new window of opportunity for lasting peace in the region was opened with the end of the conflict and that Turkey would do what is necessary if Armenia considers this.
Full respect for mutual territorial integrity and sovereignty, avoidance of all kinds of aggressive attitudes and new provocations, allowing the return of people who have left their homes, opening all means of transport for regional cooperation should be provided as basic conditions.
This statement, which had a wide repercussion, came from Armenia of different nature. But most importantly, there were successive positive statements by the Turkish and Armenian authorities. Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said at the government meeting on 27 August that they would respond to positive signals from Turkey with positive signals. (In the new government program announced by Pashinyan about 10 days ago, the absence of diplomatic relations between Armenia and Turkey and closed borders were considered as negative factors in terms of regional stability and peace).
Upon this, President Erdoğan answered a journalist’s question on relations with Armenia on his return from his visit to Bosnia-Herzegovina and Montenegro on August 29, saying that new and constructive approaches are needed in the region, that good neighborly relations can be developed on the basis of mutual respect for territorial integrity and sovereignty, and on the basis of trust. He emphasized that relations with an Armenian government that will work will be gradually improved. He also stated that they would be able to put forward a successful regional cooperation model within the framework of a 5 or 6 platform in which Turkey, Azerbaijan, Russia, Iran, Armenia and, if the parties agree, Georgia will also take part.
Pashinyan, at the government meeting on September 8, emphasized the importance of opening transport links in the region and used positive expressions to improve relations with Turkey. In addition, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Armenia announced on September 13, 2021 that “no talks were held” on improving relations with Turkey, while some Armenian officials called for caution regarding relations with Turkey. Opposition leaders, on the other hand, continued their aggressive rhetoric against Turkey, even though they were weaker compared to previous periods.
Turkey’s approach to the development of relations with Armenia has always been based on clear and justified reasons. Turkish officials generally stated that the development of Turkey-Armenia relations is based on three parameters, and these parameters are: “20 percent of Azerbaijan’s lands are under occupation”, “Armenia keeps the so-called ‘Armenian genocide’ allegations on the agenda” and “In the Armenian constitution, Turkey is excluded from Turkey. land claims”.
Although the information given above presents a positive picture for the future of Turkey-Armenia relations and regional cooperation in general, the factors need to be analyzed correctly in order to reach the right result.
The reason for the bad relations between Turkey and Armenia
First of all, we must emphasize the following; Contrary to the distorted perception that is tried to be created in Armenia and the West, Turkey has not been a state that fully imposes sanctions on Armenia. As for the embargo issue, it would be useful to remember the embargo decisions that big states and supranational organizations (as well as the “small” states that act with them) have implemented against states that do not act in their interests or whose decisions they do not welcome, or even recently put into effect.
For example, the embargo imposed by the USA on Iraq for a long time – until the 2003 invasion – covered many areas from commercial relations with this country to flights, from investments to drug sales. The USA has taken additional steps to make it compulsory for not only its own citizens and companies, but also everyone (foreign nationals and foreign companies) to comply with the sanctions against various countries, and has tried to punish foreign countries and companies that do not comply with the sanctions. by Western countries to North Korea, Iran and Russia; The isolation imposed by Russia on Western countries and Georgia (sometimes on Azerbaijan) from time to time can also be examined within this framework.
Although Turkey was one of the first countries to recognize the independence of Armenia, it did not receive a positive response from Armenia, on the contrary, it faced Armenia’s territorial claims and alleged genocide accusations. These activities against Turkey were carried out by the Armenian authorities, political parties and non-governmental organizations in Armenia, and the Armenian lobby. Despite all the positive steps taken by Turkey, Armenia did not approach regional cooperation and followed aggressive and occupying policies. Thereupon, Turkey took some steps to direct Armenia to act in accordance with international law and good neighborliness principles, with very justified reasons: It imposed partial three-dimensional sanctions (closure of borders, cancellation of flights and closure of the air corridor) on Armenia, but after a short while, Armenia was invaded by Armenia. Considering the possibility that there might be a positive response from the company, he gave up the last two of them without any compensation.
Turkey has not banned companies registered in its own country from investing in Armenia, as some other countries have done, or has not placed any restrictions on their investments. Turkey did not envisage any restrictions on foreign companies’ investments in Armenia. Turkey has neither banned its own companies from trading with Armenia, nor has it envisaged any sanctions for foreign companies doing business with Armenia. Turkey has not taken a decision to ban the entry of Armenian officials who committed war crimes into the country. In addition, Turkey has not been in a negative discourse or action towards the Armenian population in general due to Armenia’s aggressive attitude.
Especially in the 2008-2009 period, the “Armenia opening”, which accelerated, resulted in the signing of protocols between Turkey and Armenia, but the process of ratification and entry into force of the protocols by the parliaments of the two countries has not yet taken place. The Turkish authorities issued condolence messages on the “incidents of April 24, 1915”, and the then European Union (EU) Minister and Chief Negotiator Volkan Bozkır attended the service held at the Church of the Virgin Mary in Kumkapı, hosted by the Armenian Patriarchate in Istanbul on April 24, 2015, and the President Erdogan’s message to the ceremony can be shown as concrete examples of the positive steps Turkey has taken. Despite all this, the Armenian authorities responded to these steps of Turkey with even more aggressive rhetoric and policies.
Because Armenia considered the “protocols process” as a kind of “breathing” opportunity to get rid of the trouble it had in August 2008 (it lost its connection with the world, especially with Russia, which is its closest ally, through Georgia due to the war between Russia and Georgia). As it will be remembered, President Erdoğan suggested a Caucasian Stability and Cooperation Platform in this period (after August 2008), but he did not receive a positive response from Russia and Armenia.
The solution must be sought within the framework of international law
In fact, Turkey’s approach to the development of relations with Armenia has always been based on clear and justified reasons. Turkish officials generally stated that the development of Turkey-Armenia relations is based on three parameters, and these parameters are: “20 percent of Azerbaijan’s lands are under occupation”, “Armenia keeps the so-called ‘Armenian genocide’ allegations on the agenda” and “In the Armenian constitution, Turkey is excluded from Turkey. land claims”. In different periods, the desire to take the necessary steps to ensure the land connection between the Nakhchivan region of Azerbaijan and other regions was added to these.
Normally, a country like Turkey that has the power to determine the balances in its region; (i) In Article 11 of the Declaration of Independence adopted by the Armenian Parliament on August 23, 1990, the phrase “Western Armenia” for the Eastern Anatolia Region of Turkey was abolished, Recording including Mount Ararat, (iii) ending the statements questioning the validity of the 1920 Gyumri and 1921 Kars agreements, which determined the border between Turkey and Armenia, and signing a legal text that contains clear provisions that are binding on borders, (iv) Yerevan administration has no neighbors. It could also be expected that he would put forward conditions such as the official declaration that he did not put forward a territorial claim.
In fact, unlike the demands of Armenia and some states, none of these conditions are contrary to good neighborly relations, fundamental provisions of international law, and the goal of providing a suitable environment for regional peace and cooperation; on the contrary, it will undoubtedly be beneficial for lasting peace and stability. However, Armenia may adopt a softer stance by taking into account factors such as the efforts of some foreign powers to turn the region back into a center of tension. But in any case, full respect for mutual territorial integrity and sovereignty, avoiding all kinds of aggressive attitudes and new provocations, allowing people who have left their homeland (including Azerbaijani Turks expelled from Armenia) to return, opening all means of transportation for regional cooperation. must be met as basic conditions.
Undoubtedly, when these are done, cooperation between the countries of the region, including Armenia, will be strengthened, and the Caucasus can be transformed into a region of peace, stability and prosperity. Contrary to this, it will mean the continuation of negativities both for Armenia and the region. In this context, the South Caucasus is faced with a historical opportunity. The most important issue is that the will in Armenia to accept these conditions is sincere and permanent, and that foreign powers that have ambitions in the region are not allowed to play.
[Azerbaijan State Customs Academy Head of Department, Araz Aslanli is also the Head of the Caucasus Center for International Relations and Strategic Studies (QAFSAM)]