Three main factors in improvement of Turkey-Armenia relations – unsuccessful foreign policy, probability of US’ recognizing “Armenian genocide”, local elections… - ANALYSIS

Three main factors in improvement of Turkey-Armenia relations – unsuccessful foreign policy, probability of US’ recognizing “Armenian genocide”, local elections… - <font color=red>ANALYSIS </font>
# 26 February 2009 16:31 (UTC +04:00)
Davos scandal strikes the first blow on Turkey’s rating in Azerbaijan

Baku. Vugar Masimoglu – APA. The policy of “improving relations with Armenians”, which started with Armenia-Turkey football match, has already passed the next stage. The reports that Ankara gave up stipulation of Nagorno Karabakh issue in the talks with Yerevan are observed with serious concern in the public opinion of Turkey and Azerbaijan. Actually, the information first leaked from Armenian sources, and it was the results of the purposeful policy. The news “Turkey puts Nagorno Karabakh issue into the background” was a kind of taking the pulse in the region. In fact, if Ankara had immediately refuted the information, which was circulated by Armenia and made a bomb effect, it would not have caused so much tension in Azerbaijan. But Turkish government has not yet refuted the report that Nagorno Karabakh problem, one of the three main stipulations put forward for establishment of direct political, economic and diplomatic relations with Armenia was removed from the political discussions. On the contrary, official Ankara’s reaction shows that AKP government is going to take serious diplomatic steps to normalize relations with Armenia.

AKP government’s efforts to normalize the relations with Armenia are based on a number of external and internal factors. High probability that new U.S. administration will recognize the so-called Armenian genocide, tension in Turkey-Israel relations makes Ankara improve relations with Armenia. For long years efforts for recognition of the “Armenian genocide” by the US were impeded by the Jewish lobby in the country. But the word duel between Prime Minister Erdogan and Israeli President in Davos cast shadow on Turkey-Israel relations and therefore it is doubtful that Jewish lobby will help Turkey to impede the recognition of “Armenian genocide” in the U.S. Congress.

In other words, Turkey’s foreign policy is suffering from Prime Minster’s steps in Davos intended for domestic policy. That’s why official Ankara tries to remove negative results of the uncertain relations with Israel, its serious strategic ally in the region, at the cost of improving relations with Armenia. So, Turkey has involuntarily made a tactical change with respect to Armenia and “Armenian genocide” – Ankara has given up proving that these claims are false and in stead begun to demonstrate that Turkey is interested in improving relations with Armenia and recognition of “Armenian genocide” will impede this improvement.

Is the change having purely defense character in Turkey’s foreign policy course permanent? It will be known after April 24. If Turkey can persuade the United States that it is interested in improving the relations and solving all the problems with Armenia, the U.S. President in his annual speech will not regard the happenings of 1915 as genocide. But for this, Turkey should take some practical steps. Otherwise, Ankara may face more serious problems in terms of “Armenian genocide” next year and its position in the world.

What steps is Turkey going to take to improve the relations with Armenia? It is difficult to express concrete opinion, as the process is going on behind the curtains. But the information leaked to media and reactions of AKP officials allows us to say – the process of improving the relations (or giving such an impression) has started! AKP’s goodwill messages to the Armenian community in the country, statements made on different levels that the borders with Armenia will open, cross-border trade will extend, the businessmen trading with Armenia will get tax and customs concessions allow us to surmise Turkey’s next steps.
Measures taken toward the Turkish-Armenian approach were estimated for the domestic political interests too. Weakening of the ruling party’s influence will lead to losing of votes in the municipal elections. This fact was recognized by AKP representatives as well. AKP, which is seriously fighting for every vote, is trying to win the support of Armenian community (Turkey’s Armenian community is close to CHP) and business people living in the areas bordering with Armenia as well. AKP election campaign in the Eastern Anatolia is based on the theses of allowance for the free trade with Armenia and its impact on improvement of social situation of the population in border areas.
Long-time different campaigns (involving the international organizations, financial institutions, political parties, municipalities, non-governmental organizations, media and etc.) were provided in that region for direct trade with Armenia and small electorate, which is wishing the normalization of relations with Armenia, was formed in Ardahan, Kars, Igdir and Agri provinces. One of the reasons forcing AKP government to approach with Armenia is to win the support of that electorate. The government should take control over the municipalities in the border areas to open the borders with Armenia. Therefore the opening of borders became the main strategic line in the election campaign.

Basic reasons of the Ankara-Yeravan approach are known and the protest of Azerbaijan against this approach is also known. How long will this concern last and will Ankara take measures to lift it? Turkish foreign policy yet doesn’t show a willingness to do that. Ankara doesn’t express weighty reaction to the reports about its retracting the one of the basic principles of the Turkish diplomacy – settlement of the Nagorno Karabakh conflict.

The statements made so far show that Turkey will not take into consideration the interests of the third countries in its policy toward Armenia. This message was sent to Azerbaijan because there is no other country except Azerbaijan, which is concerning over this approach. It is naturally that Azerbaijan concerns over it, because Turkey is intending to normalize its relations with Armenia at the expense of interests of our country.

Turkey’s foreign policy toward Armenia was always formed within the triangle of Ankara-Baku-Yerevan and three conditions were basic principles in the relations with Yerevan: Armenia must leave its territorial and 1915 “genocide” claims against Turkey, must unconditionally withdraw its forces from the occupied lands of Azerbaijan. Over the past 20 years, Turkey followed this course and didn’t leave it even in the most difficult times. But now Ankara was forced to change this course and to disregard the Azerbaijan’s interests. Turkey took out the Nagorno Karabakh issue from the discussions to prevent the recognition of “Armenian genocide” this year. What costs it will pay in the next years?
Essence of the tensions in the Azerbaijani society is that Turkey gave away the Azerbaijan’s interests for its unsuccessful foreign policy.
AKP government, which is trying to eliminate the results of its unsuccessful foreign policy at the expense of approach with Armenia, and blamed media for the concerns among the Azerbaijani society. Azerbaijani media is sharply criticizing the Turkish-Armenian approach, but these critics are targeting not Turkey, but the AKP government, which is making mistakes in the foreign policy. Undoubtedly the Turkey’s unsuccessful foreign policy toward Armenia will severely hurt Azerbaijan. Attempts to approach with Armenia are the signals of threats, because it is impossible to believe that Turkey, which abandoned the interests of Northern Cyprus and Kirkuk, will meet the interests of Azerbaijan.