Ankara-Yerevan ties depend on Karabakh: experts

Ankara-Yerevan ties depend on Karabakh: experts

Azerbaijan, Baku, Nov. 10 / Trend E. Tariverdiyeva /

The Turkish parliament will not ratify the Armenia-Turkey protocols until significant progress is made to resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, experts said.

"The Turkish parliament has not discussed the Ankara-Yerevan protocols yet," Turkish National Intelligence Committee former analyst Mahir Kaynak said. "It is a message to Armenia that opening the Turkish-Armenian border is directly linked to resolving the Nagorno-Karabakh problem. Relations with Azerbaijan are more important for Turkey than relations with Armenia. Official Ankara cannot allow their deterioration."

Turkish and Armenian foreign ministers Ahmet Davutoglu and Edward Nalbandian signed the Ankara-Yerevan protocols in Zurich Oct. 10. Diplomatic relations between Armenia and Turkey have been torn since 1993.

Several Turkish MPs said the protocols will not be ratified until Armenia shows progress in resolving the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. In an interview with Reuters the Armenian foreign minister rejected Turkey's demand to make concessions in the conflict in exchange for a historic rapprochement between Yerevan and Ankara.

"At present, Turkey does not plan to open the border with neighboring Armenia," Turkish former Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said.

The conflict between the two South Caucasus countries began in 1988 when Armenia made territorial claims against Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan lost all of Nagorno-Karabakh except for Shusha and Khojali in December 1991. In 1992-93, Armenian armed forces occupied Shusha, Khojali and seven districts surrounding Nagorno-Karabakh. Azerbaijan and Armenia signed a ceasefire in 1994. The co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group - Russia, France, and the U.S. -- are currently holding peace negotiations.

In an interview with local media Oct. 10 Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Ankara will never take actions contrary to Azerbaijani interests.

The day after the protocols were signed, in an interview with the TRT1 Turkish state television channel, Davutoglu demanded that Armenia free Azerbaijani territories as a major condition for establishing relations with Yerevan.

Analysts believe that the parliament's decision to postpone ratification is connected with Ankara's hope that Yerevan will make progress in resolving the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

Turkey and Armenia have taken a wait-and-see attitude. Everyone is waiting for the other one to take the first step. It is not surprising that Ankara still has not ratified these protocols, European Expert on the South Caucasus Amanda Akcakoca  said.

"Turkey wants Armenia to progress on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, which has not happened yet," Akcakoca told Trend in an e-mail.

She added that the Turkish leadership has repeatedly promised Baku not to establish relations with Armenia before progress has been made in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

The protocols between Turkey and Armenia were signed under pressure from the EU and U.S. But this was a mistake, Turkish MP Reshad Dogru said.

"The AKP is afraid that if it submits the protocols for consideration to parliament, the party will face its end," Dogru told Trend over the phone from Ankara.

He said the ruling party realizes that if the Turkish people still do not support the protocols, then they will be unlikely to support them in the future.

After submitting the protocols for review, Armenia would try to pressure Turkey with the help of the international community and urge the execution of signed agreements, Dogru said.

"However, Turkey as a country will not open the border without first seeing progress in the Nagorno-Karabakh problem," he said.

Armenian Center for National and Strategic Studies expert Manvel Sargsyan said ratification without progress on Nagorno Karabakh would be a radical denial of traditional Turkish policy, the Herald of the Caucasus Web site reported.

He added that some countries do not want Turkey to preserve its political traditions.

"Turkey faces a complicated choice - whether the country will be able to defend its positions or be forced to radically change them," Sargsyan said.

The expert added that Turkey plays a major role in how the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict will unfold.

If Armenia really strives to open its borders with Turkey, then it must first resolve its problems with Azerbaijan, Kaynak said.

"If Armenia wants the borders to be opened, first it must solve its problems with Azerbaijan," he told Trend over the phone from Ankara.

Several observers said Turkey has another chance to delay ratification in the legislative body.

The parliament will not ratify the Armenia-Turkey protocols until February-March 2010, Armenian Center for National and International Studies Director Richard Giragosian said.

He added that this temporary gap is stipulated by the ninety-fifth anniversary of the so-called "Armenian Genocide," the Armenia Today Web site reported.

Giragosian said Ankara is at risk as Yerevan's patience is limited.

"The expectations from Turkey are quite high. But the signals constantly coming from Brussels and Washington that Turkey must fulfill its obligations in time are also important," he said.

Meanwhile, Akcakoca said the South Caucasus has a historic window of opportunity and all interested parties must push for something to happen on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, including the EU, which tends to sit on the fence. 

"The West must take a more principled position as it does with other conflicts because sitting on the fence is of no benefit to the resolution of this conflict," Akcakoca said. 

"The longer the delay the more the momentum will erode.  Both sides need to be brave and do it.  It is time to move to a future beyond the past," Akcakoca said.

V. Zhavoronkova and R. Hafizoglu contributed to this article

Do you have any feedback? Contact our journalist at: [email protected]

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