The Other Side of the Armenia-Turkey Normalization Process

When the Armenian government stated its intention to start the normalization process with Turkey less than a year after the 2020 Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh) war, where direct Turkish involvement contributed significantly to the Armenian defeat, many had doubts that it would bring any results. The memory of the 2008-2009 “football diplomacy” was still fresh, when Turkey promised to normalize relations without any preconditions but ended the process by demanding that Armenia accept Azerbaijani claims in the process of the Artsakh conflict settlement. Strategically, nothing has changed in Turkey since 2008-2009; the same person is still calling all the shots, while Azerbaijan’s influence over Turkey has grown significantly due to a huge investment portfolio. As Armenian society was still under the shock and trauma of a staggering defeat, many welcomed this initiative, hoping that it may pave the way for a more stable South Caucasus. At the end of the day, the primary reason behind the failure of “football diplomacy” did not exist anymore; as a result of the 2020 war, Azerbaijan took control not only over districts outside the former Nagorno Karabakh Autonomous Region, but also 30-percent of Artsakh itself. It appeared that Turkey would be satisfied by the results of the 2020 Artsakh war and would facilitate the normalization process with Armenia, viewing it as a tangible way of expanding its influence and pushing Russia out of the South Caucasus. Despite Russia-Turkey “cooptation” in different areas, the primary strategic goal in the South Caucasus was the same, as perhaps in the last two to three centuries – less and less Russian presence and influence. Russia knew these facts better than anyone but supported the start of the normalization process, hoping to stabilize the region and gain new transport routes to Turkey and Iran.

The first meeting between appointed representatives by Armenia and Turkey took place in January 2022 in Moscow. Several other meetings followed; after every meeting, the sides issued short statements, arguing that normalization of relations would take place without preconditions. The Armenian government and part of the expert community and political circles pretended to believe in this narrative, expressing satisfaction that the process moved forward without preconditions. However, it was clear to everyone that all talk of the absence of preconditions were senseless and meaningless statements. Turkey clearly put forward preconditions, and the first one was Turkey’s demand to sign a peace agreement with Azerbaijan on Azerbaijan’s terms. 

Turkey likely put forward other preconditions, too, such as stopping Armenia’s efforts toward the international recognition of the Armenian Genocide. Armenian government representatives continued to argue that there were no preconditions during negotiations. They praised the agreements to take some symbolic steps, such as opening the land border for the third countries’ citizens and resuming direct cargo flights. In July 2022, Prime Minister Pashinyan called Erdogan to congratulate on Kurban Bayram and received congratulations on the upcoming Feast of the Transfiguration of Jesus Christ. As proof of progress, the two leaders held the first meeting on October 6, 2022 in Prague during the first summit of the European Political Community. 

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan meet at the European Political Community (Photo: RA Prime Minister, October 6)

However, soon after that meeting, President Erdogan broke the cover and publicly stated that he clearly told Pashinyan that any real normalization is possible only after the signature of the Armenia-Azerbaijan peace treaty. Thus, Turkey itself ruined the myth of the “normalization process without preconditions,” publicizing its preconditions. After the October 6 meeting, there was a pause in Armenia-Turkey meetings, and Turkey did not implement agreements on symbolic gestures reached in July 2022. However, after a devastating earthquake hit Turkey in February 2023, the Armenian government decided to send humanitarian cargo and dispatch the Armenian foreign minister to Ankara. He met with his Turkish counterpart and stated that Turkey promised to implement the agreements reached in the summer of 2022. The Armenian government appeared interested in pretending that “there was a real process of normalization of relations.” The government probably hoped that Armenia would achieve positive assessment from the US and other western governments, which would strengthen Armenian positions in the region.

However, the events of early May 2023 have shattered any real or fake hopes for the existence of a “normalization process.” When a monument devoted to the “Avengers of Genocide,” persons who assassinated the primary organizers of the Armenian Genocide, was opened in Yerevan, Turkish authorities disclosed their real views about Armenia and the nature of Armenia-Turkey relations. Turkey closed its airspace for Armenian planes, and the Turkish foreign minister later demanded that Armenia dismantle the monument, otherwise threatening to take unspecified additional actions against Armenia. The demand to dismantle a monument in Yerevan is unprecedented and perhaps reveals the Turkish government’s genuine attitude toward Armenia – that Armenia is a defeated and ruined country which should accept whatever Turkey wants. Without going deep into history, it should be noted that Armenia never argued that Turkey should change its attitude toward the main organizers of the Armenian Genocide, who are revered as national heroes in Turkey. Armenia always thought that if the country declares heroes (those who committed the worst crimes against humanity), it’s not an issue of any external power to interfere, but a problem of national identity, which can be solved through the long and painful process of moral and spiritual transformation. 

It is evident that by putting forward this insulting demand, the Turkish government kills the Armenia-Turkey normalization. It is difficult to assess why. Perhaps Erdogan hopes to gain a few more votes from nationalistic circles, which he desperately needs ahead of the May 14 pivotal presidential elections, or maybe Turks are certain that no peace agreement will be signed between Armenia and Azerbaijan, and by killing the Armenia-Turkey process, they prepare additional ground for new escalations by Azerbaijan. They likely believe that after the defeat in the 2020 Artsakh war, the Armenian state and nation have been too weakened and are ready to accept any humiliation. Regardless of the reasons behind this behavior, Turkey’s recent actions proved that while talks and statements about regional peace may sound pleasant, it is necessary for Armenia not to lose the connection with the cruel reality.               

Dr. Benyamin Poghosyan
Dr. Benyamin Poghosyan is the founder and chairman of the Center for Political and Economic Strategic Studies and a senior research fellow at APRI – Armenia. He was the former vice president for research – head of the Institute for National Strategic Studies at the National Defense Research University in Armenia. In March 2009, he joined the Institute for National Strategic Studies as a research Fellow and was appointed as INSS Deputy Director for research in November 2010. Dr. Poghosyan has prepared and managed the elaboration of more than 100 policy papers which were presented to the political-military leadership of Armenia, including the president, the prime minister and the Minister of Foreign Affairs. Dr. Poghosyan has participated in more than 50 international conferences and workshops on regional and international security dynamics. His research focuses on the geopolitics of the South Caucasus and the Middle East, US – Russian relations and their implications for the region, as well as the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative. He is the author of more than 200 academic papers and articles in different leading Armenian and international journals. In 2013, Dr. Poghosyan was a Distinguished Research Fellow at the US National Defense University College of International Security Affairs. He is a graduate from the US State Department Study of the US Institutes for Scholars 2012 Program on US National Security Policy Making. He holds a PhD in history and is a graduate from the 2006 Tavitian Program on International Relations at Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy.


  1. As the essence of your article implies, Pan Turk(the governments in charge of Turkey and Azerbaijan) will not normalize their relation with Armenia until Armenia accept their term. This requirement has been mentioned by Elahm Aliove and Ordeghan many times. They demand absolute Armenian submission before normalization to happen. IF this happens, next on line for Pan Turk-ism adventure will be Chechnya, Daghestan, and Tatarestan in southern and eastern of Russia. Then perhaps, Russia will learn who is her true friend and who is her enemy. I am saying this because Pan Turk and Israel aggression in southern Caucasus in 2020, did not happen without the implicit support of Russia due to the tendency of Armenian people to choose a pro western government.
    Pan Turk-ism is on the march again after 100 years infamous massacre of Armenian and Kurdish Alavi in the eastern and central Anatolia. This time unfortunately seems Armenian in Artsakh are their first victim. We need to alert international community before it is too late. We need to remind people living in Anatolia and Azerbaijan whom consider themselves as Turk, that they themselves had been the victim of Turk savagery and brutality and have been Turkified in the process. We need to remind anyone who lives in Anatolia or for that matter in Caucasus and think he or she is a Turk that they do not belong to these lands, these lands belong to civilized people and they must go back to the far east where they originally came from.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.