There have been no diplomatic relations between the states of Turkey and Armenia for 31 years, and at the same time, the borders among the states remain closed. Relations deteriorated further due to Turkey’s support for the Azerbaijani state during the 44-day Second Karabakh War last year. Azerbaijan and Turkey see the normalization of relations with Armenia as a whole, while Armenia insists that these relations should be separated from each other. At the same time, Baku states that the cooperation between Turkey and Azerbaijan is not directed towards any country and aims to provide peace and stability in the region. Meanwhile, the positive signals received by Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan for the normalization calls from Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan represent a ray of hope for now. At the same time, according to the website of the British Institute of War and Peace Journalism (IWPR), Armenian analysts are reacting cautiously to Ankara and Yerevan’s possible normalization of relations between the two countries.  Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan have repeatedly hinted last month that they are ready to improve bilateral relations. However, the problems that Iran has caused in relations with Azerbaijan in the region are already slowing down the process that is just beginning.
In this context, The International Asia Today (Ankara Center for Crisis and Political Studies (ANKASAM)) presents the views of Artur Ağacanov, the President of the Karabakh Armenian Movement and Co-Chair of the Armenia-Azerbaijan Peace Platform, who draws attention to the importance of public diplomacy in the normalization of relations.
Artur Aghajanov is the head of the Karabakh Armenians Movement and the co-chairman of the Civil Platform for Peace between Armenia and Azerbaijan. This movement draws attention to the importance of public diplomacy in the issue of normalizing relations. He also represented the interests of the Public Collegium under the Chairman of the Luhansk Regional State Administration and was an assistant to a deputy of the city council.
Mr. Ağacanov, how do you evaluate the messages of normalization of relations between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan?
I can evaluate the calls for normalization of relations between two states positively. Because the normalization of relations between Turkey and Armenia is a positive dynamic that will affect the region as a whole. Above all, this development will stabilize the political situation in the region. We should not forget the economic factor here. Roads between countries will also be opened. In a joint business project, trade will be revived. Products that are produced in Armenia will be sold in Turkey, while products that are produced in Turkey will be sold in Armenia. The normalization of political and economic relations between Armenia and Turkey is in the interest of both countries.
Do you think one of the reasons for Iran’s military exercise on the Azerbaijani border can be considered as preventing stability in the Caucasus and sabotaging the Armenian-Turkish rapprochement here?
According to me, after Azerbaijan liberated its own land, roads, mines, etc. Iran’s interests changed when it gained control. Iran, losing its motivation, could not accept this situation. Such actions by Iran are likely to slow down the rapprochement between Armenia and Turkey in the near future. Many issues will depend on Iran’s further actions. However, I am of the opinion that it is not in Iran’s interest to worsen the situation in the region.
Where do you think the Turkey-Armenia rapprochement will lead? In this context, do you think the Armenian community is ready for this? What will be the reaction of the Armenian diaspora to this? And if society and the diaspora are not ready for this, then what method should Turkey and Armenia follow?
The re-establishment of political relations between Turkey and Armenia, as I said before, will lead to a positive outcome. Both the Turkish and Armenian sides will gain. I will not be able to answer the question “Is the Armenian community ready for this?” on behalf of the entire Armenian people, but some of them are yes. Different reactions will also come from the Armenian diaspora in the West. Some will view this negatively, others positively. If some of the people and the diaspora are not yet ready to re-establish diplomatic relations, public figures need to come together and bring people closer together. Cultural men should organize joint meetings of Turkish and Armenian youth and joint cultural events. If possible, a joint business project should be undertaken. If countries re-establish diplomatic relations, it is necessary to tell the history and culture of the peoples. Armenian youth should visit Turkey to meet their peers and see their living standards. It would be nice to invite the Karabakh Armenians, whose ancestors are related to the Turks, to Turkey. These events will bring the parties closer to each other.
Mr. Ağacanov, you are the Chairman of the Karabakh Armenians Movement and the Co-Chair of the Armenia-Azerbaijan Peace Platform. The organization, which tried to solve the problem peacefully during the ceasefire period, does not take any action at the moment. Can this platform continue its activities in the name of public diplomacy and repair the worn-out people-to-people relations that have existed for years? What do you think about the activity of the platform?
I believe that the Armenia-Azerbaijan Peace Platform can act on behalf of public diplomacy to continue the establishment of peace between the two countries, and I find it important that it continues its activities. Our common peace platform has been operating since 2017. There are public figures, scientists, historians and civic activists among us. During this time, we have made many efforts to bring the parties closer to each other and we continue to do so. We have repeatedly stated that our representatives in the sub-group of the OSCE Minsk Group should take part as observers and that we can present our proposals in this area. However, we have all witnessed how ineffective the Minsk Group is. We have always agreed on the peaceful return of Azerbaijani lands. Now the format has changed and I think the parties can negotiate their issues without a mediator. First of all, it concerns the Armenian and Azerbaijani communities of Karabakh. As representatives of the peace platform between Armenia and Azerbaijan, we hope and believe that meetings will be held by the international communities when the time comes. Representatives of our peace platform are willing to attend such meetings, assist and make suggestions.
“Is Armenia-Turkey Détente Ahead?”, https://iwpr.net/global-voices/armenia-turkey-detente-ahead, (Date of Access: 12.10.2021).