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A chance for Pashinyan. Armenia will be able to normalize its relations with Turkey only subject to signing the peace treaty with Azerbaijan

photo: alaraby.co.uk
Kamran HasanovKamran Hasanov

Kamran Hasanov

Candidate of Political Studies, CISS expert

The Turkish-Armenian conflict is one of the longest of those carried over to the 21st century. It has been in place for over 100 years. The first real attempt to settle the relations between Ankara and Yerevan was in 2008, but it failed due to the unsettled Karabakh issue. The second attempt was in 2020, and it has more chances to succeed, but the positive outcome is not guaranteed.

The fist telephone talks between the leaders of Turkey and Armenia evidenced the significant progress on the way to normalize the bilateral relations. They took place on 11 July 2022. Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Nikol Pashinyan emphasized the importance of such normalization: «The Armenian Prime Minister congratulated the Turkish President with Kurban Bayram holiday, and the Turkish President, in his turn, congratulated the Prime Minister with Vardavar holiday in honor of the Transfiguration of Christ. The parties emphasized the importance of normalizing the relations between the two countries, which will contribute to strengthening peace and stability in the region». [1]

Appointment of special envoys and opening air communications

The first meeting of the special envoys for normalizing the Turkish-Armenian relations Ruben Rubinyan, the Vice-Speaker of the Armenian parliament, and Serdar Kılıç, the ex-Ambassador of Turkey to the United States, took place in Moscow on 14 January 2022. Russia made a maximum possible contribution to assure the constructive character of the negotiations. The Deputy RF Minister of Foreign Relations Andrei Rudenko had a personal meeting with each of the envoys. The necessary groundwork for future contacts was performed. The Turkish and Armenian envoys agreed to continue the dialogue with the purpose of full restoration of the relations without any pre-conditions. Ankara and Yerevan are focused on finding the common grounds contributing to the benefits of both nations, facilitating the stability and economic prosperity of the region.

Starting from that meeting in Moscow, pessimistic forecasts prevailed in Armenian media, which claimed that R. Rubinyan was too young and unexperienced to successfully cope with the veteran of Turkish diplomacy S. Kılıç, who was quite sophisticated in foreign policy issues. The Armenian opposition traditionally blamed Nikol Pashinyan in capitulation practically on all negotiation positions. However, this did not make any barrier for several rounds of the follow-up meetings between the envoys of Ankara and Yerevan.

The process, which was launched in Moscow, continued in Vienna, where the second meeting between Serdar Kılıç and Ruben Rubinyan took place. On February 24, in the Austrian capital they discussed specific steps to normalize the bilateral relations. «The envoys confirmed that the final objective of the negotiations was full-fledged settlement between Armenia and Turkey in according with the agreements achieved in Moscow. They exchanged their views on potential joint steps in this area and confirmed their commitment to continue the process without any pre-conditions», the publication of the Armenian Ministry of Foreign Relations stated. [2]

The first results of the normalization are obvious already. In February 2022, after two years of suspension, the flights between Turkey and Armenia were resumed. The plane of FlyOne Armenia performed the first flight to Istanbul. Later the Pegasus Airlines (the Turkish company) plane flew to Yerevan.

The meeting of the envoys on 1 July 2022 in Vienna was another important milestone. Serdar Kılıç  and Ruben Rubinyan agreed to open the frontiers between Turkey and Armenia for the third countries citizens.

Let us note that the air communication between Armenia and Turkey continued, even though there were breaks, but the land frontiers were absolutely shut starting from 1993. The reason was the conflict in Karabakh. Turkey has become the main ally for Azerbaijan starting from the moment it gained independence. There were not «but» and «if» for Turkey on the issue of Karabakh territorial allegiance. In their numerous official statements during the First Karabakh War (1991-1994) and right after it, the Turkish authorities always demanded complete withdrawal of Armenian troops from the occupied territories. 

During the disintegration of the USSR, Turkey demonstrated a positive attitude towards Armenia and was one of the first countries in the world to recognize Armenian sovereignty. However, the escalation in Karabakh, territorial ambitions of Armenia claiming part of Azerbaijans land and Yerevans demands to recognize «the genocide of the Armenians» damaged the bilateral relations from the very beginning. In 1993, Turkey closed the 311-km frontier with Armenia. Unless Yerevan refuses from all its claims for Karabakh and the attempts to achieve recognition of «genocide», normalization of the bilateral relations is out of the question that used to be the official course of Turkey until the end of the Second Karabakh War. The only exclusion was the period of 2008-2009.

«Football reconciliation»

During the period of 2010 World Cup qualifiers, the leaders of Turkey and Armenia at that time gradually started to probe the way out of the crisis. Abdullah Gl, the President of Turkey, flew to Yerevan on 6 September 2008 by invitation of Serge Sargsyan, the President of Armenia. The two leaders were present at the football match between their national teams. Even though this visit of the Turkish President faced mass protests in the Armenian capital, the «football diplomacy» did not suffer from that. It continued with Sargsyans visit to the Turkish city of Bursa, where the return match took place in October 2009.

The «football diplomacy» reached its climax in October 2009. Then, the Foreign Ministers of the two countries Ahmet Davutoğlu and Eduard Nalbandyan in Zurich signed the Protocol on establishing diplomatic relations and the Protocol on development of bilateral relations. On top of restoring the trade, transport and diplomatic ties, the documents were aimed at establishing joint commissions consisting of independent historians to study the events of 1915.

However, the effective normalization of Turkish-Armenian relations did not happen. At the stage of preparing the protocols it already became clear that they were impossible to implement. The process of signing them was delayed for three hours, because the Armenian party insisted on including the words «the genocide of the Armenians of 1915» into their texts, while the Turkish sides on mentioning the Karabakh conflict. Russia and the United States supported the Zurich process (Sergei Lavrov, the RF Foreign Minister, and Hillary Clinton, the US Secretary of State, were present at the ceremony of signing the Protocols), but even this did not save the situation.

Azerbaijan factor

The controversies between Armenia and Turkey created difficulties, but they did not constitute the key barrier for reinstatement of the relations. The «Gordian knot» always was in Baku both in 1993 and in 2009. In 1990s, Turkey did not agree to open the frontiers with Armenia due to Armenian occupation of the Azerbaijan territories; and in the end of the first decade of the 21st century it was Azerbaijan that influenced the position of the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs. At the day of signing the Protocols in Zurich Baku issued a diplomatic note to Ankara with intense criticism of the Turkish position due to ignoring the Karabakh conflict in the agreements.

Eventually, Ankara took into account the position of Azerbaijan, and the Turkish parliament froze the ratification of the Protocols. Turkey could not afford taking the risk of destroying the relations with Azerbaijan for the sake of Armenia. Especially after starting a number of very important joint projects in the energy sector: oil pipeline Baku Tbilisi Ceyhan and gas pipeline Baku Tbilisi Erzurum.

The Turkish-Armenian reconciliation was delayed for almost 15 years. It became possible to put it back on the agenda only after the end of the Second Karabakh War. According to President Ilham Aliyev, Azerbaijan reinstated its territorial integrity, and Karabakh conflict became a thing of the past.

Ilham Aliyevs words became the grounds for Ankara receiving the carte blanche to start reconciliation with Armenia. However, Turkey stated that the normalization of the relations between Ankara and Yerevan should be synchronized with the normalization of relations between Yerevan and Baku.

Mevlt avuolu, the head of the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, confirmed the fact of such coordination back at the end of 2021: «We received some positive signals from Armenia. In response we will undertake certain positive actions, and we are discussing with Azerbaijan the particular steps we could make together». [3] As for the next steps along the Armenian vector, he stated: «Together [with Azerbaijan] we will make the decision and undertake the respective steps».

Currently, there are no fundamental barriers for the normalization of Turkish-Armenian relations. Telephone talks between Erdogan and Pashinyan, envoys meetings and opening of air communication each of this news is sensational by itself. At the same time, it would be premature to insist on full success of the normalization process. There are several  factors, which may create difficulties for it: 1) Yerevan is not ready to abandon its requirements with respect to «the genocide», 2) political instability in Armenia, and 3) delays in signing the peace treaty with Azerbaijan on behalf of Armenia.

Chance for Pashinyan

Some time ago, the Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan made an offer to the Armenian authorities «to open the archives» and provide all the materials on the sensitive issues of the early 20th century to historians for discussion. However, for many years Yerevan did not agree to start the constructive discussions, and demanded to acknowledge «the genocide of the Armenians» in the Ottoman Empire, which meant Turkey paying out significant financial compensation to the Armenian party.

If the government of Nikol Pashinyan decides to repeat the mistakes of the «Karabakh clan» of Kocharyan and Sargsyan, the normalization process will be brought done to zero again. Theoretically, it may happen due to the following two factors: the pressure by the opposition and Jo Biden, the US President, recognizing «the genocide of the Armenians». In either way, the Turkish authorities will never agree to recognize «the genocide» irrespective of who is at power Erdogans Justice and Development Party (JDP) or the Republicans-Kemalists.

The normalization of the relations between Armenia and Azerbaijan is also progressing, though very slowly. At their one-on-one meetings, the leaders of the two countries confirm the need for delimiting the frontiers and opening the transportation corridors. However, no changes or practical steps by Yerevan to implement the Trilateral Statement or follow-up agreements can be de-factor observed. Azerbaijan continues to build the railway to the Armenian frontier to connect with Zangezur corridor, but Yerevan has not even started building its section. No practical steps to delimit the frontier have been undertaken; at the same time, Armenia continues to put a focus on the «status» of separatist formation in Karabakh and insists on rehabilitation of OECD Minsk Group. Armenian military forces remain in the zone of Russian pace-makers responsibility, which was recently emphasized by Baku at the top level. [4]

In any case, Armenia needs to understand clearly: the normalization of its relations with Turkey is not possible without signing the peace treaty with Azerbaijan on the basis of the following five principles proposed by President Ilham Aliyev:

  1. Mutual recognition of sovereignty, territorial integrity, inviolability of frontiers and political independence of each party;
  2. Mutual confirmation of absence of territorial claims against each other and undertaking a binding legal commitment to refrain from any such action in future;
  3. Refraining from jeopardizing each others security in foreign relations, using threats and force against political independence and territorial integrity, as well as other circumstances in contradiction with the UN Charter;
  4. Delimitation and demarcation of the state frontier, establishing diplomatic relations;
  5. Opening transport and communications, building other communications and closer cooperation in other fields of mutual interest.

1. Pashinyan and Erdogan emphasized the importance of normalizing the Turkish-Armenian relations. TASS, 11.07.2022. https://tass.ru/mezhdunarodnaya-panorama/15184123

2. Turkish and Armenian envoys discussed the steps to normalize the relations between the two countries. TASS, 24.02.2022. https://tass.ru/mezhdunarodnaya-panorama/13838859

3. Turkey will be coordinating with Azerbaijan the process of normalizing the relations with Armenia avuolu. Interfax-Azerbaijan, 28.10.2021. http://interfax.az/view/848836

4. The President of Azerbaijan accused the RF Ministry of Defense of failure to meet the commitments. Lenta.ru, 15.07.2022. https://lenta.ru/news/2022/07/15/azerbajanarmeniarossiya/

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Caspian Institute for Strategic Studies
Publications

A chance for Pashinyan. Armenia will be able to normalize its relations with Turkey only subject to signing the peace treaty with Azerbaijan

photo: alaraby.co.uk
Kamran Hasanov

Kamran Hasanov

Candidate of Political Studies, CISS expert

The Turkish-Armenian conflict is one of the longest of those carried over to the 21st century. It has been in place for over 100 years. The first real attempt to settle the relations between Ankara and Yerevan was in 2008, but it failed due to the unsettled Karabakh issue. The second attempt was in 2020, and it has more chances to succeed, but the positive outcome is not guaranteed.

The fist telephone talks between the leaders of Turkey and Armenia evidenced the significant progress on the way to normalize the bilateral relations. They took place on 11 July 2022. Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Nikol Pashinyan emphasized the importance of such normalization: «The Armenian Prime Minister congratulated the Turkish President with Kurban Bayram holiday, and the Turkish President, in his turn, congratulated the Prime Minister with Vardavar holiday in honor of the Transfiguration of Christ. The parties emphasized the importance of normalizing the relations between the two countries, which will contribute to strengthening peace and stability in the region». [1]

Appointment of special envoys and opening air communications

The first meeting of the special envoys for normalizing the Turkish-Armenian relations Ruben Rubinyan, the Vice-Speaker of the Armenian parliament, and Serdar Kılıç, the ex-Ambassador of Turkey to the United States, took place in Moscow on 14 January 2022. Russia made a maximum possible contribution to assure the constructive character of the negotiations. The Deputy RF Minister of Foreign Relations Andrei Rudenko had a personal meeting with each of the envoys. The necessary groundwork for future contacts was performed. The Turkish and Armenian envoys agreed to continue the dialogue with the purpose of full restoration of the relations without any pre-conditions. Ankara and Yerevan are focused on finding the common grounds contributing to the benefits of both nations, facilitating the stability and economic prosperity of the region.

Starting from that meeting in Moscow, pessimistic forecasts prevailed in Armenian media, which claimed that R. Rubinyan was too young and unexperienced to successfully cope with the veteran of Turkish diplomacy S. Kılıç, who was quite sophisticated in foreign policy issues. The Armenian opposition traditionally blamed Nikol Pashinyan in capitulation practically on all negotiation positions. However, this did not make any barrier for several rounds of the follow-up meetings between the envoys of Ankara and Yerevan.

The process, which was launched in Moscow, continued in Vienna, where the second meeting between Serdar Kılıç and Ruben Rubinyan took place. On February 24, in the Austrian capital they discussed specific steps to normalize the bilateral relations. «The envoys confirmed that the final objective of the negotiations was full-fledged settlement between Armenia and Turkey in according with the agreements achieved in Moscow. They exchanged their views on potential joint steps in this area and confirmed their commitment to continue the process without any pre-conditions», the publication of the Armenian Ministry of Foreign Relations stated. [2]

The first results of the normalization are obvious already. In February 2022, after two years of suspension, the flights between Turkey and Armenia were resumed. The plane of FlyOne Armenia performed the first flight to Istanbul. Later the Pegasus Airlines (the Turkish company) plane flew to Yerevan.

The meeting of the envoys on 1 July 2022 in Vienna was another important milestone. Serdar Kılıç  and Ruben Rubinyan agreed to open the frontiers between Turkey and Armenia for the third countries citizens.

Let us note that the air communication between Armenia and Turkey continued, even though there were breaks, but the land frontiers were absolutely shut starting from 1993. The reason was the conflict in Karabakh. Turkey has become the main ally for Azerbaijan starting from the moment it gained independence. There were not «but» and «if» for Turkey on the issue of Karabakh territorial allegiance. In their numerous official statements during the First Karabakh War (1991-1994) and right after it, the Turkish authorities always demanded complete withdrawal of Armenian troops from the occupied territories. 

During the disintegration of the USSR, Turkey demonstrated a positive attitude towards Armenia and was one of the first countries in the world to recognize Armenian sovereignty. However, the escalation in Karabakh, territorial ambitions of Armenia claiming part of Azerbaijans land and Yerevans demands to recognize «the genocide of the Armenians» damaged the bilateral relations from the very beginning. In 1993, Turkey closed the 311-km frontier with Armenia. Unless Yerevan refuses from all its claims for Karabakh and the attempts to achieve recognition of «genocide», normalization of the bilateral relations is out of the question that used to be the official course of Turkey until the end of the Second Karabakh War. The only exclusion was the period of 2008-2009.

«Football reconciliation»

During the period of 2010 World Cup qualifiers, the leaders of Turkey and Armenia at that time gradually started to probe the way out of the crisis. Abdullah Gl, the President of Turkey, flew to Yerevan on 6 September 2008 by invitation of Serge Sargsyan, the President of Armenia. The two leaders were present at the football match between their national teams. Even though this visit of the Turkish President faced mass protests in the Armenian capital, the «football diplomacy» did not suffer from that. It continued with Sargsyans visit to the Turkish city of Bursa, where the return match took place in October 2009.

The «football diplomacy» reached its climax in October 2009. Then, the Foreign Ministers of the two countries Ahmet Davutoğlu and Eduard Nalbandyan in Zurich signed the Protocol on establishing diplomatic relations and the Protocol on development of bilateral relations. On top of restoring the trade, transport and diplomatic ties, the documents were aimed at establishing joint commissions consisting of independent historians to study the events of 1915.

However, the effective normalization of Turkish-Armenian relations did not happen. At the stage of preparing the protocols it already became clear that they were impossible to implement. The process of signing them was delayed for three hours, because the Armenian party insisted on including the words «the genocide of the Armenians of 1915» into their texts, while the Turkish sides on mentioning the Karabakh conflict. Russia and the United States supported the Zurich process (Sergei Lavrov, the RF Foreign Minister, and Hillary Clinton, the US Secretary of State, were present at the ceremony of signing the Protocols), but even this did not save the situation.

Azerbaijan factor

The controversies between Armenia and Turkey created difficulties, but they did not constitute the key barrier for reinstatement of the relations. The «Gordian knot» always was in Baku both in 1993 and in 2009. In 1990s, Turkey did not agree to open the frontiers with Armenia due to Armenian occupation of the Azerbaijan territories; and in the end of the first decade of the 21st century it was Azerbaijan that influenced the position of the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs. At the day of signing the Protocols in Zurich Baku issued a diplomatic note to Ankara with intense criticism of the Turkish position due to ignoring the Karabakh conflict in the agreements.

Eventually, Ankara took into account the position of Azerbaijan, and the Turkish parliament froze the ratification of the Protocols. Turkey could not afford taking the risk of destroying the relations with Azerbaijan for the sake of Armenia. Especially after starting a number of very important joint projects in the energy sector: oil pipeline Baku Tbilisi Ceyhan and gas pipeline Baku Tbilisi Erzurum.

The Turkish-Armenian reconciliation was delayed for almost 15 years. It became possible to put it back on the agenda only after the end of the Second Karabakh War. According to President Ilham Aliyev, Azerbaijan reinstated its territorial integrity, and Karabakh conflict became a thing of the past.

Ilham Aliyevs words became the grounds for Ankara receiving the carte blanche to start reconciliation with Armenia. However, Turkey stated that the normalization of the relations between Ankara and Yerevan should be synchronized with the normalization of relations between Yerevan and Baku.

Mevlt avuolu, the head of the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, confirmed the fact of such coordination back at the end of 2021: «We received some positive signals from Armenia. In response we will undertake certain positive actions, and we are discussing with Azerbaijan the particular steps we could make together». [3] As for the next steps along the Armenian vector, he stated: «Together [with Azerbaijan] we will make the decision and undertake the respective steps».

Currently, there are no fundamental barriers for the normalization of Turkish-Armenian relations. Telephone talks between Erdogan and Pashinyan, envoys meetings and opening of air communication each of this news is sensational by itself. At the same time, it would be premature to insist on full success of the normalization process. There are several  factors, which may create difficulties for it: 1) Yerevan is not ready to abandon its requirements with respect to «the genocide», 2) political instability in Armenia, and 3) delays in signing the peace treaty with Azerbaijan on behalf of Armenia.

Chance for Pashinyan

Some time ago, the Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan made an offer to the Armenian authorities «to open the archives» and provide all the materials on the sensitive issues of the early 20th century to historians for discussion. However, for many years Yerevan did not agree to start the constructive discussions, and demanded to acknowledge «the genocide of the Armenians» in the Ottoman Empire, which meant Turkey paying out significant financial compensation to the Armenian party.

If the government of Nikol Pashinyan decides to repeat the mistakes of the «Karabakh clan» of Kocharyan and Sargsyan, the normalization process will be brought done to zero again. Theoretically, it may happen due to the following two factors: the pressure by the opposition and Jo Biden, the US President, recognizing «the genocide of the Armenians». In either way, the Turkish authorities will never agree to recognize «the genocide» irrespective of who is at power Erdogans Justice and Development Party (JDP) or the Republicans-Kemalists.

The normalization of the relations between Armenia and Azerbaijan is also progressing, though very slowly. At their one-on-one meetings, the leaders of the two countries confirm the need for delimiting the frontiers and opening the transportation corridors. However, no changes or practical steps by Yerevan to implement the Trilateral Statement or follow-up agreements can be de-factor observed. Azerbaijan continues to build the railway to the Armenian frontier to connect with Zangezur corridor, but Yerevan has not even started building its section. No practical steps to delimit the frontier have been undertaken; at the same time, Armenia continues to put a focus on the «status» of separatist formation in Karabakh and insists on rehabilitation of OECD Minsk Group. Armenian military forces remain in the zone of Russian pace-makers responsibility, which was recently emphasized by Baku at the top level. [4]

In any case, Armenia needs to understand clearly: the normalization of its relations with Turkey is not possible without signing the peace treaty with Azerbaijan on the basis of the following five principles proposed by President Ilham Aliyev:

  1. Mutual recognition of sovereignty, territorial integrity, inviolability of frontiers and political independence of each party;
  2. Mutual confirmation of absence of territorial claims against each other and undertaking a binding legal commitment to refrain from any such action in future;
  3. Refraining from jeopardizing each others security in foreign relations, using threats and force against political independence and territorial integrity, as well as other circumstances in contradiction with the UN Charter;
  4. Delimitation and demarcation of the state frontier, establishing diplomatic relations;
  5. Opening transport and communications, building other communications and closer cooperation in other fields of mutual interest.

1. Pashinyan and Erdogan emphasized the importance of normalizing the Turkish-Armenian relations. TASS, 11.07.2022. https://tass.ru/mezhdunarodnaya-panorama/15184123

2. Turkish and Armenian envoys discussed the steps to normalize the relations between the two countries. TASS, 24.02.2022. https://tass.ru/mezhdunarodnaya-panorama/13838859

3. Turkey will be coordinating with Azerbaijan the process of normalizing the relations with Armenia avuolu. Interfax-Azerbaijan, 28.10.2021. http://interfax.az/view/848836

4. The President of Azerbaijan accused the RF Ministry of Defense of failure to meet the commitments. Lenta.ru, 15.07.2022. https://lenta.ru/news/2022/07/15/azerbajanarmeniarossiya/