Most Armenian residents support diplomatic relations with Turkey, according to new poll

Yerevan, February 2021 (Photo: Government of Armenia/Facebook)

A majority of residents of Armenia support restoration of diplomatic relations with Turkey, as long as critical national interests are not conceded, according to a recent poll.

The US-based International Republican Institute (IRI) published the results of its latest public opinion survey on January 31, 2022. The poll was conducted between November 22 and December 5, 2021 through phone interviews with 1,512 Armenian citizens. 

According to the results of the survey, 73-percent of Armenians believe that Armenia should simultaneously pursue a dialogue with Turkey while seeking its recognition of the Armenian Genocide. Seventy-percent support preconditions to the normalization of bilateral relations, including Turkey’s non-interference in the Artsakh peace process. 

While 44-percent of respondents feel that Armenia should not pursue normalization of relations with Turkey under any circumstances, 53-percent disagree with this statement. 

“History shows that these countries have had difficult bilateral relations throughout the years,” said Stephen Nix, director of IRI’s Eurasia Division. “A desire among the Armenian people to strengthen ties with Turkey is a very positive development.” 

Armenian and Turkish officials have taken several concrete steps in the past months to restoring diplomatic ties. On January 14, special envoys appointed by each country held an initial round of talks, during which they “agreed to continue negotiations without preconditions aiming at full normalization.” Deputy speaker of the Armenian parliament Ruben Rubinyan and Turkish ambassador Serdar Kılıç will meet for the second time on February 24 in Vienna, Austria. 

According to the IRI poll, 90-percent of Armenians identified Turkey as the country posing the greatest political threat to Armenia, while 77-percent chose Azerbaijan. Turkey and Azerbaijan are also perceived as the greatest security threats to Armenia among 88-percent and 81-percent of respondents, respectively. 

The greatest share of respondents (25-percent) said that Armenia should not start the process of delimiting and demarcating the Armenia-Azerbaijan border until after the final resolution of the Artsakh conflict and the signing of a peace agreement with Azerbaijan. Public opinion on this question among the remainder of participants was split evenly. While 16-percent said it is not currently in the interest of Armenia and Artsakh to launch the demarcation and delimitation process, 15-percent said Armenia should start the process as soon as possible. Others supported preconditions to initiating the process, including the restoration of the armed forces (16-percent) and clarification of the principles guiding the process (14-percent). 

Armenia and Azerbaijan have seemingly reached a deadlock on negotiations to delimit and demarcate their shared border. Armenian PM Nikol Pashinyan and Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev agreed to “push the process of establishment of a bilateral commission with the advisory participation of the Russian Federation” on border delimitation and demarcation, in a statement signed at a November 26 trilateral summit in Sochi. During a meeting on December 14 with European Council President Charles Michel, the leaders agreed to take “further tangible steps” to “reduce tensions on the ground to ensure a conducive atmosphere for the talks” on delimitation and demarcation.  

In January, the spokesperson of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) of Armenia Vahan Hunanyan said that Pashinyan and Aliyev had agreed on the mutual withdrawal of Armenian and Azerbaijani soldiers from their border posts during the meeting in Brussels. Hunanyan was responding to a statement by Azerbaijan’s Foreign Minister Jeyhun Bayramov that Baku would not accept any “preconditions” to the start of the border demarcation and delimitation process. 

On February 3, Bayramov reiterated that Armenia has set “certain conditions for the beginning of the work of the commission on the delimitation and demarcation process,” which are unacceptable to Azerbaijan.

“Armenia, which held Azerbaijan’s lands under occupation for 30 years, has no legal, political or moral right to impose any conditions on the delimitation of borders,” he said during a joint press conference with his Hungarian counterpart. 

In response, Hunanyan said that the full implementation of the agreements reached in Sochi and Brussels requires concrete steps to increase the level of security on the Armenia-Azerbaijan border. 

“It is also logical amid the fact that it is difficult to imagine the implementation of delimitation in the borders where ceasefire violations are observed every day,” he told Armenpress news agency.

The largest percentage of participants (28-percent) in the IRI poll said that territorial and border issues are the most important problems facing the country, followed by national security (15-percent). Ninety-six percent said that the resolution of the Artsakh conflict is important for the future of Armenia. While 35-percent said that recognition of the Republic of Artsakh as an independent state would be an acceptable solution to the Artsakh conflict, 34-percent supported unification of Artsakh with Armenia, and 11-percent, the establishment of the status of Artsakh within Russia. 

“With the recent Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and a history of military confrontation in the region, Armenians are understandably concerned about national security and threats along the border,” said Nix. “They would like to see a resolution to these long-standing territorial issues.”

European Council President Charles Michel, French President Emmanuel Macron, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev meet via video conference (European Council, February 4)

French President Emmanuel Macron praised the results of a virtual February 4 meeting with Pashinyan, Aliyev and Michel. The leaders discussed “recent releases of detainees, ongoing joint efforts to search for missing persons, as well as the upcoming restoration of railway tracks,” according to a joint statement from Macron and Michel. Pashinyan’s office added that the parties exchanged views on the “reduction of tensions on the Armenia-Azerbaijan border” and “access of international organizations to Nagorno-Karabakh.” 

Three days after the meeting, eight more Armenian prisoners of war were released from Azerbaijan. The MoFA of Armenia said that the repatriation took place “with the mediation of the French government and European Union.” 

“We are going forward!” Macron tweeted about the return of the POWs. 

French President Emmanuel Macron and Russian President Vladimir Putin attend a joint press conference in Moscow, February 8, 2022 (Photo: Kremlin)

Macron and Russian President Vladimir Putin discussed a number of issues regarding the Artsakh conflict, including “missing persons, refugees, borders and the communications infrastructure,” during a February 8 meeting in Moscow. The leaders expressed “coinciding views on a number of matters,” according to Macron.

Lillian Avedian

Lillian Avedian

Lillian Avedian is a staff writer for the Armenian Weekly. Her writing has also been published in the Los Angeles Review of Books, Hetq and the Daily Californian. She is pursuing master’s degrees in journalism and Near Eastern Studies at New York University. A human rights journalist and feminist poet, Lillian's first poetry collection Journey to Tatev was released with Girls on Key Press in spring of 2021.
Lillian Avedian

@LillianAvedian

Graduate student @GloJo_NYU and @nyukevo. Staff writer @armenianweekly.
It's been over six weeks since #Azerbaijan closed the #LachinCorridor and blockaded #Artsakh. Gas and electricity s… https://t.co/vibVON7bSU - 1 week ago
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15 Comments

  1. The key phrase is “as long as critical national interests are not conceded”. This is the line in the sand for the Armenian nation. No to any “corridor”. No to Azeri “territorial integrity”. No to renouncing claims on Turkey via the Treaty of Kars. Adversaries can and must talk. Protect Armenian interests. Very good reporting Lillian. Thanks.

  2. Does anyone know of a single country which is blockaded and can be successful? It simply doesn’t work. We have to think of ways to strengthen our economy and resist pan turkist pressures on us. Blockading ourselves in is not the answer. The Aliyev regime used to say we will just wait until Armenia gets so poor and empty that we will just walk right in, and we have Armenians agreeing with this strategy. We have to connect with everyone and anyone based on our interests. Giving sovereign land of meghri won’t work, but giving rail access will. Who will profit more? If we can trade cheaply and securely with Iran and Russia? We will.

    We are not a regional power. We have to get it into our heads, we can’t demand anything. This is the reality. We have to aspire to be a power, and why not? We have a functioning business market, we can hopefully build an educational field to be proud of and base our strengths on tech, who can stop us? Nobody. However we havr to forget about looking into the past, we dont have a country from sea to sea, nobody cares if we have been around for thousands of years. Let’s look to the future, can we give our kids an Armenia which can make bold claims? The best in the region, the strongest in the region. Don’t let hangups from the past blur our vision

    • The reason Armenia became depopulated is not because of the “blockade” but because of the political thieves running the country that did nothing good for the people but rather stole and lined their own pockets with rigged elections. However for 30 years these lands were held and Artsakh was protected through a strong militarily. That is a fact! The only reason we lost this war and Artsakh is because the complete useless implant Pashinyan was installed. Under his misrule HE purposely lost the war but worse, about 4500 Armenian kids were murdered in the process just so people like you can now claim we need to ‘just forget the past’ as our only option because “we are not that strong” and “we are not a regional super power”.. Why don’t you ever blame the traitor loser pretending for the recent disaster?? Pashinyan’s new paradigm is weakening the military, abandoning Artsakh, appeasing Turks, ignoring past genocides and giving away lands and then blaming everything and everyone else for it. What a losing mentality. What a traitor. No thanks. The Answer is UNITY. One Armenia, Artsakh and Diaspora all working as one. That is it. Why not try that for a change? Why not reach out to the diaspora and INCLUDE IT? Welcome it? That all starts with competent visionary leadership.

    • As a rug merchant I visited Armenia with hopes to develop and renew an area rugs trading business in America. After meeting with several rug weaving people, I was impressed with their ability to weave the fine rugs Armenia has been know for, in the colors & patterns needed in America; but after sitting and discussing labor costs, shipping through Georgia to the Black Sea, the “first-cost” exceeded the required competitive retail. The point of course is Andy’s remarks of the geographical blockage imposed on Armenia.

      Added to the blockage of freight, purchases from Armenia has a second tax paid to a mysterious source, however the reliance on Russia should leave little to the imagination. Yes, air freight appears to be the only way products from Armenia can be seen in the U.S. Thank you Andy Faulkner for calling it as it is.

  3. Have any of you read Asimov’s foundation? Its about a small mineral poor planet navigating its independence amongst much stronger predatory planets/systems. The planet experiences a series existential challenges from the more powerful and rich planets. However never is violence the solution. Instead its existence is assured by planning, diplomacy and playing its neighbors against each other.

    I agree with Andy above. For Armenia, war and isolation are the worst outcomes. Those calling for revolution in Armenia against the elected current government have never experienced the horrors of a civil war.

  4. @joe, i dont think you know what a blockade is, and what its effects are on the population. At the beginning due to the blockade there wasnt even enough to bring flour into the country, people had issue with basic nutrition, so they left the country. We in the diaspora had to send flour to the country, members of parliament had to travel to Georgia to bribe mobsters there, to allow basic food stuffs to enter the country.

    Once the basic food products issue stabilised, then we had issues importing items for production, manufacturing, basic items for living. We could have purchased new or used machinery from Turkey and had production in Armenia, instead we purchased finished products from Turkey, and people used the black market to bring these goods into Armenia. Right now Armenia has a relatively high average salary, however because things are so expensive to import, our purchasing power is low, and so people think why should i live to a lower standard than others in Europe, i will leave also. I mean you certainly believe you shouldnt lower the standard of living by moving to Armenia, so why should they have? Of course the robbing and looting of the nation up until 2018 was another major factor, so we can agree on that one.

    As for the Diaspora. It is this government that installed an actual Diasporan to head Diasporan affairs instead of a disgraceful thief by the name of Hranush who has helped introduced the iGorts program which allows the brainpower we have outside Armenia to make their mark in the heart of Armenian government. It is this government which allows young couples to buy houses and the government pays for the interest on all new builds (it pays this from tax revenues which businesses pay, instead of bribes previously). This means people will stay. This is also reflected in immigration net immigration into Armenia previous to the war. Diasporans were turned off by Armenia before, because they knew they would be robbed by customs officials or tax officials or just plain thieves in previous governments, and thats why they didnt invest (Royal Armenia anyone, Cafesjian anyone, Lincy anyone). Now we have the opposite, we have an end to such corruption and people can work as hard as they like.

    So yes, the diaspora is being included, by this government, for the first time. And isnt being looted.

    We dont have to dance for joy and be naive about Turks reopening borders, however we have to end this slow suffocation we suffer. We could avoid opening the borders, if 6m diasporans repatriated, or even 3m, or even 1m, or even 0.5m. But the diaspora isnt prepared to do that, i say this as someone who was born in western europe and moved to Armenia 15 years ago, with family still in europe. The sacrifices we want to make do not correlate with the demands we want to impose on Armenia.

    Im not even going to debate about the Army, because we didnt have an army, we had a pool of resources which were robbed on a daily basis by everyone involved in the Army. The quicker we realise these nasty realities the quicker we can rise and indeed, become a regional power. We certainly wont become a regional power by drinking hollow toasts to the Army, while they rob fuel, rob tires, sell old weapons onto the army, sell old food to the army, where generals used to rob food from the army and give it to their pigs on their farm for free. this was the reality, time to assess accurately, punish those criminals, and rebuild. Fast.

    • @ Andy, How about a program where diaspora kids can serve 2-4 years in the Armenian military? Just like Israel does. First I believe many would volunteer and enlist especially if it was framed as: “we need you now to build the future with the help of all Armenians” 2. This would create a large pool of ready and able fighters who know the military system in case of future hostilities and more importantly be able to secure and defend the borders as that is what is needed most. 3. I am convinced many would stay after service and repopulate and invest in the country. Those not doing so would still have a real attachment and understanding of how to contribute. 4. Imagine the diaspora’s motivation with finances and political involvement by having your kids on the front lines? Its a win, win win.

      As for this new government, their representative here in the US has yet to reach out to anyone to either communicate, coordinate or plan anything with any Armenian community that I know of. They don’t want it. What a shame and loss of a real major resource. The ANCA for example, is one of the strongest and most potent lobbies here in the USA and does amazing work for ARMENIA against the backdrop of both the Turkish, US Military industrial complex and Israeli lobbies that always goes counter to anything Armenia. Why ignore that? And you know if its not happening here in the US its not happening anywhere. Armenia must understand that it’s need for other countries providing Armenia with political support and friendship will be in direct reflection of the Armenian diaspora’s influence in those countries. Most Armenians are well to do and influential. WHY NOT UTILIZE THIS and coordinate with the diaspora community?

      The other problem with this current government, beside losing ancient lands and making excuses, is that it makes secret unilateral decisions that will effect ALL ARMENIANS. That is worrisome. Maybe their non thief tendencies are warranted but its still a far cry from what is truly needed: really competent visionary intelligent leadership that utilizes ALL RESOURCES by including the world’s diaspora for the betterment of all. All we have is each other. Why not utilize this to its full potential? Work as one. Lets try that for a change. This plan will work..

    • In regards to logistical support, the Armenian General Benevolent Union (AGBU) has done some good work to improve the situation, in Armenia. With the collapse of the USSR (1991), the AGBU was already there working to improve Armenia’s telephone system.

  5. It is imperative for Armenians to have the necessary elasticity and toughness to sail in the murky waters of the geopolitical war that is going on between the superpowers, having in mind that for them Armenia is just a chess piece.

  6. Armenia was a power in the region for the last three decades but then our successive corrupt leaders, elected by and subservient to foreign leadership, squandered it all. We were powerful and dedicated to our national interests and the world around us took notice and treated us accordingly. We often heard Armenia is landlocked and poor but despite our dire condition we managed to become an independent state and with very little resources, if any, with devastating natural disasters and with no army we managed to defeat a racist criminal enemy with three times the population, five to six times the manpower and with over twenty-five times the firepower in the battlefield. This landlocked and poor country managed to liberate enemy-occupied Armenian territories more than the state of Lebanon in size.

    How was all that possible? Simply because we were all, Armenia-Artsakh-Diaspora, united as one and had very clear plan and understanding for what it was that we were fighting for. No one could stop us once we got going. We gained respect for what we were fighting for in spite of the fact that some did not see eye-to-eye with us and that because of their own self-interests in the region having absolutely nothing to do with the fact that we were fighting for what was rightfully ours and that over the years they were chipped away from our homeland piece-by-piece by manipulative and self-serving superpowers in the region. Giving up even an inch of what we had gained through massive sacrifices was not only unheard of but was considered unpatriotic and treasonous act.

    Here we are today resigned to our fate and making up all kinds of excuses to appease ourselves without facing the facts that gave rise to the situation we are in. Make no mistake about it, this was a terroristic war preplanned and unleashed on the Armenians by half dozen terrorist states and other criminal entities with full knowledge of our so-called allies. Strong and powerful Armenia was becoming and had become a liability for the world around us. They had to shatter our soul and uncompromising spirit and destroy our accomplishments so they could make us dependent on them and have full control over us and our national aspirations. This was all planned in advance and our self-serving and short-sighted corrupt leaders fell for it. Today the hypocritical Russian president has amassed a massive attack force and ready to unleash on Ukraine claiming NATO’s encroachment on Russian backyard threatening their security WHILE knowingly turning a blind eye on terrorist Turkey’s unprecedented military presence in its ally Armenia’s backyard, not to mention their direct military involvement in 2020 war on the enemy side. Isn’t terrorist Turkey a NATO member state anymore? Why this double-standard? Because they had to do to Armenia through Turkish military what they could not directly do themselves.

    The three superpowers, Russia-US-France, bent on protecting their interests and multi-billion dollar investments in the region, i.e. oil & gas pipelines, made us believe that this conflict should and can only be resolved through peaceful means and that war and violence was not the answer while they armed our enemy and prepared it for exactly what they were preaching against. Believing these foreign scoundrels our leaders engaged in massive internal corruptions, nepotism and theft leaving our fate into their hands with their empty words instead of upgrading and strengthening the army and always be ready to give the enemy yet another big dose and a bitter taste of their devastating defeat a quarter century ago.

    Today, If you think making “peace” with genocidal terrorist Turkey and its criminal collaborator pseudo-Turkish artificial Azerbaijan is a good thing and that the current dysfunctional and incompetent Armenian government is on the right track, well think again. Peace with terrorist Turkey ultimately means accepting their current boundaries with Armenia which in reality means no territorial claims from terrorist Turkey which in turn means you can kiss the liberation of occupied Western Armenia goodbye, followed by giving up on worldwide Armenian Genocide acknowledgement and reparations in hundreds of billions of dollars and opening Armenia-Turkey borders, which they closed themselves in 1993 with no Armenian provocations whatsoever towards terrorist Turkey, giving fascist Turkey access to Central Asia through sovereign Armenian territory, and economic takeover of Armenia by unrepentant Turkish criminals giving rise to more poverty and migration. Peace with artificial Azerbaijan means giving up Artsakh and putting in danger the lives of 150K Armenian residents there and the ultimate loss and depopulation of this ancient Armenian territory from its indigenous Armenian population as it happened with enemy-occupied ancient Armenian territory of Nakhijevan which today is completely devoid of its Armenian population, Armenian cultural landmarks and sacred sites desecrated and destroyed and used as a military base to train, by terrorist Turkish army, more Azerbaijani terrorists to kill more Armenians.

    That’s what is awaiting you if you believe in “peace” with our terrorist Turkish and pseudo-Turkish Azerbaijani enemies. These two criminal states jointly attacked, destroyed, occupied our liberated territories once again, desecrated our sacred sites and are in the process of erasing Armenian existence in territories under their control and here you are preaching peace with the devils in disguise. Wake up already!

    • 1) There will be no giving up on genocide recognition.
      2) I agree that Azerbaijan was deliberately screwing up talks, but we should have also compromised.
      3) Russia does not have an attack force, since Ukraine initiated the hostilities with NATO approval.
      4) Yes, all superpowers have interests. It is our fault that we did not understand that.
      5) Most Armenians don’t believe in submitting to Turks, so there is no need to worry about that.

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