Leading foreign policy observer in Turkey discusses ‘benefits’ of Yerevan-Armenia ties
In the Feb. 6 issue of the Turkish newspaper Milliyet, Sami Kohen, a veteran columnist considered one of Turkey’s leading foreign policy observers, wrote a column titled “Things Are Going Well with Armenia.” According to Kohen, the talks between senior Turkish and Armenian officials in Davos, Switzerland, were virtually ignored because of the controversy surrounding Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s outburst over Gaza. He notes that progress was made toward normalizing Armenian-Turkish relations, and analyzes the impact Genocide recognition in the U.S. Congress could have on the negotiations. Below is the translation, by Ara Arabyan, of the portion of the column that relates to these issues.
The talks that were held with Armenia [in Davos] were very important. First, Foreign Minister Ali Babacan met with his Armenian counterpart Edward Nalbandian. This was their fifth meeting since President Abdullah Gul’s visit to Yerevan last September.
Next, Prime Minister Erdogan had his first ever face-to-face meeting with Armenian President Serge Sarkisian. Although the meeting was cut short because of the tumult after the panel discussion on Gaza, the statement that was issued subsequently noted “positive and encouraging signs” emanating from the meeting.
At these meetings in Davos, both sides demonstrated a shared desire and the political will for the normalization of relations. This was only a dream not too long ago—indeed even only six months ago.
The expectation that these talks will continue in the coming weeks and months on various occasions and at different levels suggest that “things are going well.”
Certain positive steps toward the “normalization of relations” may be expected as a result of these contacts. For example, a decision to open land borders between the two countries, which have remained closed since 1993, would not be a surprise. This may be followed by an exchange of diplomatic missions.
Because of the secrecy of the talks, we do not know the bargains being driven on these issues. Nor do we know how “normalization” is linked to existing disputes (e.g. the Nagorno-Karabagh problem, the recognition of borders, and genocide allegations) in these talks. However, declarations to the effect that “we have come closer to normalization” since Davos reinforce impressions that a common understanding is taking shape on these matters.
The broken state of relations between Turkey and Armenia in recent years has caused much harm to Yerevan in particular. Armenia has become isolated and has had to cope with serious economic and social problems. Because of the lack of communications, on the other hand, Turkey has been unable to use its influence over Yerevan despite its stronger and more comfortable position.
As a consequence, it has not been able to help Azerbaijan adequately on the issue of Nagorno-Karabagh. The lack of dialogue has reduced the chances of resolving bilateral disputes.
The “opening to Armenia” is consistent with Ankara’s recent “proactive policy” of “zero problems with neighbors” as a “regional actor.”
No doubt, any concrete results from this opening and the normalization of relations between the two countries would bolster Turkey’s stature in the international arena. One can easily sense this impression in the United States and the EU.
More explicitly, the normalization of relations between Turkey and Armenia would serve as the most effective factor in keeping the new U.S. administration and the new U.S. Congress from making any moves to recognize the “Armenian Genocide.”
Conversely, any position taken by U.S. administration officials and politicians against Turkey would not only block the improvement of Turkish-Armenian relations but also seriously jolt Turkish-American ties.