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April 14, 2010


How do you assess the Washington meetings between Erdogan and Sargsyan, Obama and Sargsyan and Obama and Erdogan?

I suppose this is an important stage on the way to overcoming complex hindrances in our region. The US role in this process should not be underestimated, especially since according to US officials, the country is cooperating with Russia. Considering the fact that the United States and Russia are Turkey's main partners, the developments must play a decisive role with the direct involvement of the United States.

In this sense, the US position on all aspects of the 'Armenian issue' and on the principles of approaches to the normalization of Armenian-Turkish relations was initially of great importance. I mean the approach that predicates the normalization of relations without preconditions, as well as the inexpedience of binding the Karabakh conflict to the normalization of Armenian-Turkish relations. The meetings in Washington provide further proof that the United States sticks to this position. In addition, there has been no clarification of the US attitude to the recognition of the 1915 Armenian genocide.

Turkey’s desire to take this problem off the agenda has not received obvious support yet. Neither the US nor Armenia accept any preconditions for the ratification of the Armenian-Turkish protocols. I think Turkey’s leadership has only just started to understand the full complexity of the international situation. The attempts to begin rapprochement with Armenia from the starting point of demands to acknowledge the legitimacy of Turkey's many claims on regional problems have created great difficulties for Turkey. This approach by Turkey has not received international support.

The US president has urged the parties to normalize relations. Is the United States interested in the resolution of the Armenian-Turkish conflict?

Armenian-Turkish relations are a political phenomenon that goes beyond the narrow framework of relations between Armenia and Turkey. They have a significant geopolitical importance. The aforementioned approaches of the superpowers to the settlement of these relations are connected with this. The world wants to see new relations between Turkey and Armenia on the basis of clear prerequisites. That is, there is an intention to change not only the scheme of political relations in the region but also Turkey’s philosophy and  they are trying to make Turkey disavow most of its traditional approaches in its policy. Turkey is not perceived as an appropriate partner in its current political image. The normalization of Armenian-Turkish relations is a specific examination for Turkey.

The Turkish prime minister said none of the US leaders had ever used the word 'genocide' and 'we hope Obama will also not use this word'. What do you think about this statement and the issue overall?

Turkey sees political sense in the US approach to the problem of the 1915 genocide or, to be more exact, it links this approach to the nature of the United States' relations with Turkey. As an important US partner, Turkey does not consider the accusations of a grave crime appropriate. Nevertheless, the Turkish leadership is facing a reverse trend: the parliaments of Western countries continue to discuss and recognize the Armenian genocide. If the United States takes this step, Western demands on Turkey will become tougher and will be turned into deliberately consolidated policy.

As the Turkish leadership has adopted the tactic of rejecting the 1915 genocide and builds its policy on this tactic, the possible recognition of this historical fact by the United States can frustrate the important basis of foreign and domestic policy. The resolution adopted by the US House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs on 4 March urges the president 'to ensure the conduct of a foreign policy that reflects an adequate understanding of issues connected with human rights, ethnic cleansing and genocide'. Certainly, if this resolution is adopted by the US Congress, it will influence the country's policy towards Turkey.

This very circumstance has made the problem of genocide the leading issue in Turkey's policy. Undoubtedly, it has become the main concern of the Turkish leadership in the current meetings in Washington.

How can the Washington meetings affect the Karabakh conflict settlement?

US President Barack Obama is reported to have assured Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan that he will spare no effort for the resolution of the Karabakh conflict. However, there are no hints that this problem can be bound to the problem of the normalization of the Armenian-Turkish relations.

The problem is that Turkey's understanding of the settlement of the Karabakh conflict does not mesh with the outlook of most leading centres of power. Turkey’s willingness to use the Armenian-Turkish process to transfer Nagorno-Karabakh to Azerbaijan cannot be an acceptable provision in international affairs. The promise to settle the Karabakh conflict does not mean the satisfaction of Turkey’s demands at all.

Possibly, Turkey also agrees to any method to settle the conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh. The constant pressure by Azerbaijan is also unacceptable for Turkey in the long term since Turkey’s policy has been hostage to Azerbaijani demands for two years now. Though the factor of Azerbaijan may be valuable for Turkey, it cannot paralyse its policy for long, because it just becomes senseless. Therefore, Turkey’s interests on Karabakh cannot be completely identical to those of Azerbaijan. The development of the international situation over Armenian–Turkish relations makes Turkey more convinced about it.

Most assessments of the Washington meetings between the leaders of Turkey, Armenia and the United States show a restrained attitude of the Turkish leadership to the Karabakh issue as a precondition for Armenian-Turkish rapprochement. Turkey is likely to persuade Azerbaijan that such a precondition may be harmful to Azerbaijani interests too. Any unaccepted precondition may cause new waves of confrontation which will ultimately worsen the state of the region.

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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.

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