Ülviye FİLİYEVA ERKEÇ
Turkey and Armenia are announcing that on the latest period, they are entering the normalization period. The experts who are on the side of normalization of the relations between the two countries are highlighting the importance of mutual tolerance for the development of the normalization initiatives.
In this context The International Asia Today presents the views of the Founding Director of Yerevan based Center for Political and Economic Strategic Studies Benyamin Poghosyan.
Mr. Poghosyan, representatives of the Armenian community in Turkey believe that the conditions for long-term peace and cooperation are created in the region. In that sense, how do you evaluate the facilities for establishment of diplomatic relations between Armenia and Turkey? Which ways would be effective for that?
Armenia needs to establish direct contacts with Turkey, the same way as all states need direct conversations with their neighbors. However, it is important to understand that serious disagreements continue between the two sides. Those disagreements are about future status of Nagorno-Karabakh, direct intervention of Turkey to Nagorno-Karabakh war of 2020, and emphasis of Turkey to the establishment of “Zangezur Corridor”. However, despite of those disagreements, the two countries should make a process of establishing diplomatic relations, and Turkey should remove the blockade of Armenia. Diplomatic relations between the two countries may help to solve the issues mentioned before. I believe that the sides could establish diplomatic relations until the end of 2022.
How do you assess the risks and expectations from new transport and energy corridors connecting Turkey and Armenia?
Turkey and Armenia should work together to open Gyumri-Kars Railway. That route could be an important railway hub, which may connect Russia and Turkey. Currently, Russia can reach Turkey via Baku-Tbilisi-Kars Railway; however, due to the tensions between Georgia and Russia, Moscow could prefer different route. Turkey and Iran also have railway connection; yet, Tabriz-Gyumri-Kars may be an additional route. If we consider growing demand of electricity in Turkey, Armenia could be an important electricity supplier to Turkey. The potential of Turkish market can be a crucial factor on constructing new nuclear power plant in Armenia.
How do you evaluate the impact of the new economic corridor on the economic situation in Turkey and Armenia?
Opening of Gyumri-Kars Railway could increase Armenia’s export through Turkey to Europe and the Middle East. However, it should be considered that Armenia’s main export market is Russia, and Armenia now reaches European markets by the Georgian Black Sea ports. If Turkey remove the Armenian blockade, I do not see strong positive effects on Armenia’s economic situation in short and middle term. By the way, if we consider Turkish Lira’s over-devaluation, Armenian market can be drowned by imported cheap Turkish goods. It may harm the Armenian producers in such areas as agriculture and textile. That’s why, Armenian government should be really careful.
On mutual relations, which problems can easily be solved or which challenges can be overcame? Which actions could make possible to make peace permanent? Also, how do you evaluate Armenia’s future relations with Turkey and Azerbaijan?
In Southern Caucasus, long-term peace is possible with the practice of the two conditions. Above all, all foreign actors, Russia, Turkey, Iran, the United States of America (the US), and European Union (EU) should agree on main parameters of new regional balance of power. Russia’s initiative of excluding the US and the EU will fail. In that sense, newly established 3+2 format can not provide necessary conditions for permanent regional stability. Second condition is solving the conflicts based on mutual compromises. Armenia was always ready for compromised based solutions. Yerevan was ready to sign Kazan Document back in 2011, based on the principles and elements developed by the OSCE Minsk Group’s co-chairmen. Stability and peace in the long-term perspective are possible if vital national interests of all actors to be taken into consideration seriously. Otherwise, the next war in the region is inevitable.
How do you evaluate the results of the talks of President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliev and Armenia’s Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan on 15 December 2021 in Brussels?
The trilateral meeting of Armenia-Azerbaijan-the EU in Brussels on 14 December 2021 and Aliev-Pashinyan-Emmanuel Macron meeting held in 15 December 2021 were important steps in the process of developing direct contacts between the sides. The sides repeated that they are ready for the restoration of Azerbaijan-Armenia-Nakhchivan and Armenia-Nakhchivan-Iran railways. The agreement to release of 10 Armenian prisoners of war reached during the meeting was an important step. But Azerbaijan’s demand of access through Armenia to Nakhchivan without passport and customs control; otherwise, to place of Azerbaijan’s checkpoints along the Lachin Corridor creates conflicts on the legal status of the routes. Armenia is rejecting all efforts to connect the issue of restoration of communications between Armenia and Azerbaijan with the functioning of Lachin Corridor. Probably the sides is going to have different comments and perceptions on those issues until the beginning of 2024, when railway routes will be launched.
How do you evaluate the “Six Cooperation Platform”, which Turkey put forward with the desire to increase the joint cooperation between the countries of the region and neighboring states?
The format in question is a joint Turkey-Russia initiative to manage the rivalries in the South Caucasus in a short and medium-term perspective. It is similar to the Astana Format for Syria launched by Russia, Turkey and Iran in 2017. However, while Iran plays an equal role in the Astana Process; the primary actors here are Turkey and Russia. Russia; although it understands very well that Turkey is and will remain a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), and that the USA and NATO will be in the region through Turkey, is interested in limiting the direct role of the USA and NATO in the South Caucasus. In other words, Moscow prefers to have an indirect American presence through Turkey rather than a direct American involvement in regional geopolitics. Meanwhile, the establishment of the aforementioned format provides a legal basis for Turkey to participate in the discussions on the future security architecture of the South Caucasus.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan states that the opportunities brought by regional cooperation are in the interests of all states. How do you think what is the other regional powers approach to this process?
I have already mentioned Russia’s position. Iran always prefers the regional cooperation approach in regional conflicts and the creation of this format is in line with Iran’s strategic interests. Iran does not have the resources to significantly affect regional developments. Its primary interest is to prevent the US and Israel from using the region for anti-Iranian activities. In this context, more Russia in the South Caucasus means less USA for Iran. Therefore, Tehran will support Russia’s increasing role in the South Caucasus. Meanwhile, Iran sees Russia as a buffer, which does not allow Turkey to fully dominate the region. While Georgia rejected the idea of the 3+3 format due to its conflict with Russia; Armenia couldn’t refuse Russia’s request to join. The main challenge for Yerevan is the possibility that the 3+2 format will further reduce the role of the OSCE Minsk Group and become the main discussion platform for the Karabakh conflict.
An interview on our website is the personal opinion of the expert and may not reflect the institutional view of Ankara Center for Crisis and Policy Research (ANKASAM).