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November 5, 2009

ACNIS Holds Roundtable Discussion on Armenian-Turkish Diplomacy & Nagorno Karabagh:
“Deal or No Deal?”

Yerevan—The Armenian Center for National and International Studies (ACNIS) convened a roundtable discussion today entitled “Armenian-Turkish Diplomacy & Nagorno Karabagh: “Deal or No Deal?” that assessed recent developments between the two issues.

The event was attended by several ambassadors and senior diplomatic officials from the European Commission, the European Union’s Special Representative for the South Caucasus, the Council of Europe and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), as well as staff from the British and U.S. embassies, and the Armenian Ministry of Defense.

After welcoming the nearly sixty participants, ACNIS Director of Administration Dr. Karapet Kalenchian presented a brief introduction of the issues of Armenian-Turkish diplomacy and the Nagorno Karabagh conflict, which he said “demonstrated the significance of discussing and analyzing the security and increasing political independence of Karabagh.”  Dr. Kalenchian added that the “current dynamic situation was a challenge of national importance for Armenia and Karabagh, while also serving as a test for Turkey.”

ACNIS Senior Analyst Manvel Sargsyan presented his analysis of the “looming ratification of the Armenian-Turkish protocols” that were signed on October 10 by noting that “Turkish attention to the Nagorno Karabagh issue has rapidly expanded,” adding that “Turkey continues to coordinate the ratification of protocols in terms of progress over the Karabagh issue,” but stressed that “Armenia and the international community must not succumb to this pressure.”  Sargsyan went on to say that “Turkey may now exert a serious impact on the configuration of the future political processes in the region.”

According to Sargsyan, “even today there is а clear problem of a deterioration of relations between Turkey and Azerbaijan,” which he said “without any doubt, may reflect developments in the international situation regarding the Nagorno Karabagh issue.”  He added that the “conflict situation, in fact, has adopted a role as a stimulant for political configurations in the region” and that “within Karabagh there is a strong opinion over the inadmissibility of territorial compromises to Azerbaijan and, of course, over any resolution of the Karabagh conflict based on the Madrid principles.”

ACNIS Director Richard Giragosian then presented an assessment of recent developments since the signing of the protocols, which he argued has “initiated a new stage of Armenian-Turkish diplomacy, marked by a number of tests by the Turkish side aimed at challenging Armenian resolve.”  Giragosian explained that “this new stage, moving beyond the protocols to the parliaments, presents a new set of challenges, as Turkey continues to make strong statements that may actually endanger the process of parliamentary ratification.”  More specifically, he said that “the rhetoric and threats from the Turkish side, especially over new demands for progress over the Nagorno Karabagh issue, suggests that the passage of the protocols by the Turkish parliament will not be easy.”

Citing the fact that the Turkish side, at least publicly, still seeks to re-connect the Karabagh issue to the Turkish-Armenian normalization process, Giragosian stated that “this poses a serious obstacle” and stressed that “such a connection is unacceptable and clearly, it is too late and too dangerous to try to re-connect the Karabagh issue to the process at this stage.”  He then explained that “the Karabagh issue was removed from the protocols and it should not be seen as any sort of precondition or prerequisite.”

The ACNIS Director went on to say that “this issue of ‘normalization’ must be seen in the proper perspective, as any move by Turkey to reopen the border and extend diplomatic relations with Armenia represents only the bare minimum of expectations of normal countries, meaning that Turkey should not be unduly praised or rewarded (for such moves).”  And “the real burden,” he said, “rests more with the Turkish side, as it was Turkey that closed its border with Armenia in 1993 and withheld diplomatic relations in support of Azerbaijan over Karabagh, and, most crucially, it is Turkey that remains challenged by the need to face the historic legacy of the Armenian genocide.”

He then closed with an argument for “a more realistic approach to the Nagorno Karabagh issue,” based on a “recognition of the fact that the omission of any reference to the Nagorno Karabagh issue in the protocols means that there is no direct linkage between the Karabagh peace talks and the current Armenian-Turkish effort to ‘normalize’ relations.”  The Karabagh talks, he explained, are “on a separate ‘second track’ of diplomacy moving at a much slower speed and driven by a very different set of issues than the ‘first track’ of Armenian-Turkish diplomacy.”

Giragosian added that “there were other important lessons,” including the fact that the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s (OSCE) Minsk Group, which is the lead mediator of the Karabagh conflict, is “structurally flawed by the absence of the democratically-elected representatives of the Nagorno Karabagh Republic (NKR) which, as a direct party to the conflict, must be afforded a direct and formal role in the peace process.”  Moreover, he said, “the failure to incorporate Karabagh in the peace talks as a party of equal standing only questions the viability of reaching a negotiated resolution capable of meeting the minimum standards of security and sustainability.”  Giragosian closed by noting that “the recognition of the role of the OSCE Minsk Group as the mediator of the Karabagh conflict also means that Turkey can have no direct role in the peace process and should not be accepted as a neutral broker or mediator of the Karabagh conflict.”

The two presentations were then followed by a series of questions and answers, and featured a lively exchange among Armenian parliamentarians, leading Armenian analysts, experts and journalists.  The presentations are available upon request by contacting ACNIS or can be freely downloaded from the Center’s website.

The Armenian Center for National and International Studies (ACNIS) is a leading independent strategic research center located in Yerevan, Armenia.  As an independent, objective institution committed to conducting professional policy research and analysis, ACNIS strives to raise the level of public debate and seeks to broaden public engagement in the public policy process, as well as fostering greater and more inclusive public knowledge. Founded in 1994, ACNIS is the institutional initiative of Raffi K. Hovannisian, Armenia’s first Minister of Foreign Affairs.  Over the past fifteen years, ACNIS has acquired a prominent reputation as a primary source of professional independent research and analysis covering a wide range of national and international policy issues.

For further information on the Center call (37410) 52-87-80 or 27-48-18; fax (37410) 52-48-46; email root@acnis.am or info@acnis.am; or visit www.acnis.am.

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