Pashinyan should not follow Sargsyan’s mistaken policy on relations with Turkey

Here we go again. Back in 2009, Pres. Serzh Sargsyan engaged in a misguided effort to sign an agreement with Turkey, ostensibly to open the mutual border. Even though Armenians around the world strongly objected to the scheme, Pres. Sargsyan kept insisting that he was right and everyone else was wrong.

Sargsyan could not see that Turkey had no intention to open the border. Ankara used the border issue as a ploy to obtain maximum concessions from Armenia, such as giving up on the international recognition of the Armenian Genocide, accepting the territorial integrity of Turkey, which meant that Armenians were to abandon their demands for Western Armenia, and returning Artsakh to Azerbaijan. These were the Turkish preconditions. Furthermore, even if Armenia accepted these inadmissible conditions, Turkey would escalate its demands, adding new ones.

Pres. Sargsyan did not understand that if Turkey really wanted to open the border, it could have done so without signing any protocols and without making any demands from Armenia. After all, Turkey was the one that unilaterally closed the border, not Armenia, so it could have reopened the border anytime it wanted. When Pres. Sargsyan toured several Diaspora communities in 2009, supposedly to find out their views on the border issue, he faced massive protests and confrontations in Lebanon, France, the United States and Russia.

Finally, Azerbaijan succeeded in killing the Armenia-Turkey protocols by pressuring Turkey not to ratify them in order to exert maximum pressure on Armenia to return Artsakh. Ironically, Azerbaijan was the one that ended up safeguarding Armenia’s interests, not Pres. Sargsyan.

Now, in 2021, we see the repetition of the 2009 scenario, except this time, the situation is much worse, since Armenia is led by a defeated leader who has no choice but to accept Turkey/Azerbaijan’s escalating demands for concessions. All those who believe that Armenia and Turkey cannot remain eternal enemies and see nothing wrong with talking with “our opponents,” are forgetting one key point: who is doing the negotiating? On the one side, we have a shrewd politician – Pres. Erdogan of Turkey – and on the other side, we have the inexperienced and defeated leader of Armenia. This is like asking the sheep to negotiate with the wolf. The outcome is obvious.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan recently said that “Turkey is willing to work for the normalization of relations with Armenia pending the neighboring country’s abandonment of single-sided accusations and embrace of a realistic outlook.” Amazingly, PM Nikol Pashinyan considered Erdogan’s statement a “positive signal” and promised to respond in kind! Turkey’s 2009 preconditions are still on the table, except that Azerbaijan recovered most of Artsakh by force. However, Turkey continues to demand that Armenia give up the pursuit of the international recognition of the Armenian Genocide and accept the territorial integrity of Turkey. Since last year’s war, Azerbaijan and Turkey have added a new condition: Armenia should sign “a peace treaty” with Azerbaijan, which would mean accepting the territorial integrity of the latter, thus permanently giving up Artsakh. Furthermore, even if Pashinyan were to accept such inadmissible demands, Turkey and Azerbaijan would certainly impose new more troubling conditions. This is a red line that no Armenian leader has the right to cross! How can one negotiate with a country that almost destroyed the Armenian race in 1915 and killed thousands of young Armenian soldiers as recently as last year?

Having mostly fulfilled the first Turkish precondition – the return of Artsakh – Azerbaijan now wants to complete the job by occupying the rest, this time not by war, but by forcing Armenia to give it up voluntarily, by signing a deceptive “peace treaty.” Azerbaijan is continuing to twist the knife in Armenia’s bleeding heart by encroaching on the country’s border and illegally holding and torturing Armenian POWs, even after Pashinyan needlessly turned over to Azerbaijan maps of 200,000 land mines in the Azeri-occupied territories. The Nov. 9, 2020 agreement had no such requirement. However, it did include a demand to return the Armenian POWs. Pashinyan should insist that nothing will be negotiated until the POWs are released and the Azeri troops withdraw from inside Armenia’s border. Under these circumstances, Armenia must counter Turkey’s preconditions with its own preconditions.

Then there are those who think that opening the Armenia-Turkey border will promote trade and bring financial benefits to Armenia. On the contrary, cheap Turkish products will flood the Armenian market, bankrupting the local producers. Armenian manufacturers cannot compete with Turkish producers who benefit from economies of scale, based on an 85-million population market.

Let us not sell Armenia cheap by acting like Turkey will be doing us a big favor by offering to open the border. In fact, Turkey stands to gain much more than Armenia by opening the border. The Turkish city of Kars, only 30 miles from Armenia, suffered a “massive blow” to its economy after the border was closed, according to eurasianet. As a result, the population of Kars province “shrunk from 662,000 in 1990 to 285,000 in 2020.”

It is ironic that Pashinyan, who came to power opposing all of his predecessors’ actions, is blindly repeating the previous president’s failed policy on relations with Turkey. He is even using Sargsyan’s own words: “establish relations with Turkey without any preconditions.” It seems that Armenia’s leaders not only do not learn from past mistakes, but blindly repeat them. It would have been somewhat understandable if Pashinyan, as the leader of a defeated nation, confessed that he had no choice but to accept the Azeri/Turkish imposed conditions. But, that’s not what he has said. Pashinyan repeatedly has stated that these imposed conditions, such as the planned route linking Nakhichevan to Eastern Azerbaijan and opening the border with Turkey, are in Armenia’s best interests. Such measures are completely against Armenia’s national interests. They are, in fact, the age-old dreams of Pan-Turkists, to connect Turkey through Armenia to Turkic Republics in the Far East.

To make matters worse, in recent days, Pashinyan has welcomed Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s announcement that Armenia should make an effort to open its border with Turkey. This is not surprising as such actions are in Russia’s interest in order to further distance Turkey from NATO and the West. It is regrettable that while Russia, Turkey and Azerbaijan are diligently pursuing policies that are in their national interests, Armenia’s leader has no conception about his country’s national interest.

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Harut Sassounian

California Courier Editor
Harut Sassounian is the publisher of The California Courier, a weekly newspaper based in Glendale, Calif. He is the president of the Armenia Artsakh Fund, a non-profit organization that has donated to Armenia and Artsakh $917 million of humanitarian aid, mostly medicines, since 1989 (including its predecessor, the United Armenian Fund). He has been decorated by the presidents of Armenia and Artsakh and the heads of the Armenian Apostolic and Catholic churches. He is also the recipient of the Ellis Island Medal of Honor.

6 Comments

  1. and what would happen if this transport route through armenia was closed someday after being opened? what would happen if cargo was stopped and searched? would the turks consider this an “attack” on their sovereignty and use it to justify an invasion of synuik?
    why is this route so important to the turks, as opposed to passing through iran to get to nakhichevan? because then they could move whatever they wanted through the territory, including military hardware without any concerns as armenia is much weaker against the combined forces of both countries than iran, with which a war would be a disastrous mess and something the turks would avoid.

    • Very simple. Iran had been using it as leverage against Azerbaijan, and indirectly Turkey. I am guessing cargo transports would be direct, and likely no vehicle would be allowed to stop since it is a short distance anyway. So it is just a right of passage. Stopping a vehicle would not mean an attack on sovereignty, especially if there are valid reasons. It would also be in their interest to prevent the passing of drugs and whatnot.

    • Its deeper then that. Controlling Syunik would isolate both Armenia and Iran , basically a wish of the Zionists. An open direct route between Armenia to Iran means future trade route possibilities for Armenia and Iran including OIL TRANSITS. The British Zionist banking, and Russia too, would quiver if that happened. They basically want Armenians gone. So the next option is total isolation. That’s why Syunik..

  2. Yet another diaspora Armenian not suffering in a landlocked country giving ideas to Armenians who have to somehow live next to Turks and Azeris. It is not him who pays the price when things go bad anyway, his ego is satisfied for supposedly taking revenge from Turks while in reality, it has been Armenians who had been suffering all along. Eastern Turkey’s population had been shrinking for a while now and it has little to do with Armenia, but terror and Turkey’s own economic dynamics. I guess you also support having Russia thoroughly controlling Armenia if you advocate not making peace with the Turks.

    Unless you can bring the ocean to Armenia, or make the US give a few billion every year don’t say a word about what to do with Turkey or Azerbaijan to Armenians who are living in Armenia and its reality. Because you are really not helping. Diaspora is so selfish.

  3. People do not understand that Russia was behind the destruction of Artsakh, and Armenians are so brainwashed, they actually think “that’s an impossibility”.

    The destruction and takeover of Artsakh is basically a plan by Turkey and Russia to establish transport routes for both energy and goods with the beneficiaries being Russia, Turkey and Azerbaijan – ONLY. The plan is to prevent Armenia from ever having any power or option to stop such trade between east and west. In other words, Russia’s plan is to make Armenia completely irrelevant. Up until now Armenia was not exactly sovereign in the traditional sense, but at least it was on paper. Now, at the hands of “Mother Russia”, Armenia’s sovereignty, what little there is of it, has even been violated on paper.

    And the TRAITORS in Armenia who made that plan work are walking around free continuing their destruction of Armenia’s future as I type this… and to be quite blunt about it: the only way Armenia will ever get cleaned up of its traitor filth is through violence.

  4. The Azeris fear our wrath and want to make sure that we do not rebuild our military……we need to be self sufficient in terms of domestically manufactured weapons …..take that EU aid and spend it on manufacturing of weapons systems such as ballistic missiles …..why Yemen and even Palestine can fire 1000s of ballistic missiles at their enemies and even carry out drone strikes on vital infrastructure while we make statements like “ we will never attack the oil pipelines or Baku petroleum installations? And Pashinyan opening his mouth saying iskander missiles exploded by only 10 %! They should have used iskander missiles the first days of the war not firing it into an empty field hrs before signing the capitulation! With leaders like Pashinyan and his predecessors It should come as no surprise why Russia did not come to aid us militarily….they want to have their cake and eat it too….kizzzing azzz to the Turks NATO allies USA and France …. making sure that Baku had nothing to worry about because we refused to hurt our enemies where it mattered most! We should have at least left the option of striking pipelines open instead of giving our enemies the green light to continue with the war because there is nothing to worry about …..the pipeline is safe we would never attack it !? Then they sent all of our military hardware….s300s, 100s of tanks, billions of dollars of military equipment to be destroyed by the enemy with no air support ?! And 1000s of young men and boys, they were even contemplating on sending our women to be raped by the Azeris into battle! What is wrong with this picture? We are our own worst enemy! How can our leaders negotiate anything that is beneficial to Armenia when they are working with the enemies!? Perhaps it is time to shut down all foreign embassies and close our borders and stop taking foreign money !? They sold us out 30 years ago …..been looting and raping our own people into poverty ! Shame on all politicians ….shame on Pashinyan for not resigning ! Shame on every last one of them! They are worse than the Turks at this point ! They need to face firing squad!

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