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.”
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.
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.