Syria’s mediating between Turkey and Armenia should take into account Azerbaijan’s interests: experts

Azerbaijan, Baku, Feb. 24 / Trend , E.Tariverdiyeva/

Syria's mediation to establish relations between Turkey and Armenia can be successful only until Ankara raises the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict taking into account Azerbaijan's territorial integrity.

"At the first stage of the negotiations, Syria can play a role of mediator, but its mediation is only possible at the beginning of the establishing relations between Armenia and Turkey. At next stages, Turkey will take into account Azerbaijan's interests, where Syria has no tool for a successful mediation," leading Turkish political analyst for Middle East Mustafa Ozcan said.

During his visit to Syria on Feb. 27, Armenian Foreign Minister Edward Nalbadyan said at a meeting with President Bashar Assad that Armenia would like to see Damascus as a mediator in establishment of relations with Turkey, Syrian Sana news agency reported.

Armenian Foreign Minister informed Syrian President of the Nagorno-Karabakh negotiating process and opportunities to normalize Armenian-Turkish relations. "President Assad welcomed Armenia's steps to establish relations with Turkey and expressed confidence that they contribute to strengthening stability and security in the region," Armenian Foreign Ministry reported.

The conflict between the two South Caucasus countries began in 1988 when Armenia made territorial claims against Azerbaijan. Armenian armed forces have occupied 20 percent of Azerbaijan since 1992, including the Nagorno-Karabakh region and 7 surrounding districts. Azerbaijan and Armenia signed a ceasefire agreement in 1994. The co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group - Russia, France, and the U.S. - are currently holding the peace negotiations.

Turkey and Armenia try to normalize the relations which were severed in 1993. The reason for severance of diplomatic relations was Yerevan's anti-Turkey campaign aimed at getting recognized the so-called "Armenian genocide", as well as occupation of 20 percent of Azerbaijani territory by Armenia.

The President of Turkey Abdullah Gul accepted the proposal of the President of Armenia Serzh Sargsyan to visit Yerevan to watch the football match between Armenia and Turkey on Sep. 6 2008 within the group games of the European Championship. The diplomatic efforts for the normalization of the relations between these two countries continue after this visit.

The Prime Minister of Turkey Rajab Tayyip Erdogan said to press conference on Feb. 18 that the official positions of Azerbaijan and Turkey on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict remain unchanged, Turkish Ihlas agency reported.

"In the Karabakh question we continue process in one direction with the Azerbaijan side," he said.

Observers consider that the first priority task of Armenia must be establishing relations with Turkey, and Syria can help in this in the first stages.

Armenia is well aware of the dangers of the fragility of the situation in the region and knows their economic and security interests cannot be served unless they have proper diplomatic relations with Turkey, London-based Transatlantic and Caucasus Studies Institute Director Ziba Norman said.

"Armenia therefore should be looking for ways of achieving  a rapprochement, and a warming of relations with Syria, together with the concrete steps that have been announced to enhance diplomatic relations between the two nations ( Syria and Armenia) and Armenia's Embassy in Syria, are part of this aim," Norman wrote to Trend in an email.

According to Norman, if Armenia engages with Syria, and it would have much to gain from increasing its ties in the wider Middle East, then remaining closed off from Turkey, its gateway to that region, is unthinkable.

The experts say that Syria, which supports relations both with Turkey and with Armenia, can act as a mediator between the countries only in the first stage. However, Damascus does not have tools for further negotiations without taking into account the interests of Azerbaijan.

Considering that Syria has good relations with Armenia and Turkey, most probably the mediation of Damascus can yield good results, Ozcan said.

"Currently Turkey and Armenia can establish relations also without mediators, and this version would be preferable for Turkey, but here it is necessary to consider the factor that Turkey presents interests of Azerbaijan," Ozcan told Trend in a telephone conversation from Ankara.

For the image of Syria, it is prestigious to act a mediator, but still it is early to speak of any concrete plans of Damascus, said Syrian political scientist, expert on Turkey, Husni Magali. According to him, in this case, Syria insists on the concessions from Yerevan. "Syria advised that at least temporarily Armenia would give up the question on recognition of "genocide" and would establish relations with Turkey," Magali told Trend in a telephone conversation from Istanbul.

According to observers, improvement in the Armenian-Turkish relations, for which Yerevan hopes, is possible if only Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is resolved taking into account the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan, and the mediation of Syria will not force Turkey to make concession in this question.

"Turkish officials not only emphasize seriousness of the process of normalizing relations with Armenia, but also continue the efforts directed towards regulating Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, completely supporting Azerbaijan's priorities," expert on South Caucasus Licinia Simao said.  

Syria and Turkey have traditionally good relations, which Yerevan wants to use, said Syrian expert on Turkey, Kamer Kasim.

According to Kasim, expert of the Center for International Strategic Studies Usak, there is clear understanding between Baku and Ankara regarding Nagorno-Karabakh problem, and without Yerevan's observance of this understanding, Turkey will never go to the establishment of relations with Armenia unilaterally.

"Turkey will never propose the version of regulating relations with Armenia to the detriment of Azerbaijan, since Azerbaijan is the key figure for regulating conflict," Kasim told Trend in a telephone conversation from Ankara.

"Syria's mediation between Turkey and Ankara is important because it shows a recognition of the interconnectedness of the Caucasus to the Middle East, the nations of the region will stand or fall together,"

E.Ostapenko, B.Hasanov contributed to the article

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