Will Moscow Lead a Historic Reconciliation Between Turkey and Armenia?

Russia managed to stop the second Karabakh war after its mediation in completing a historic agreement between Armenia and Azerbaijan. After completing the full implementation of the terms of the agreement (among them are “land swaps” or land passages), Moscow will control transportation between Armenia and part of the Karabakh enclave across the territory of Azerbaijan and between Azerbaijan, as well as the enclave of the Azerbaijani Nakhchivan region through the territory of Armenia. Nonetheless, this part of the agreement, in particular, remains incomplete, with the continued closure of the land borders between Armenia and Turkey.

Nikol Pashinyan, Prime Minister of Armenia, believes that abolishing the ban on transport links will completely change the logic of development in the region. In an interview with the Russian TASS agency, he said, commenting on the tripartite statement of agreement, “This is a very important point, and I believe that in the near future we should focus on this point, because when we talk about economic stability not only in Armenia but in the entire region, we must take concrete steps.”

We find that Moscow is currently able to revive the diplomatic agreements which were negotiated between Turkey and Armenia in 2009. Especially the opening of the land borders between the two neighboring countries, with the implementation of many of the terms of the agreement sponsored by Russia between Baku and Yerevan, and its control of the Nakhchivan and Lachin strategic routes. One of the main obstacles to implementing previously signed protocols between Ankara and Yerevan has been removed.

It cannot be ignored how the opening of the land borders will help improve the economic situation, particularly in Armenia and their access to the outside world, and it will also benefit the Turkish regions bordering Armenia, where local people have long wanted to strengthen ties to boost their local economies.

Ankara surprised Baku at the end of 2009 by announcing the beginning of normalization with Armenia, the archenemy of Azerbaijan and Turkey. Azerbaijan denounced that step at that time and considered that this would lead to an increase in tension in the South Caucasus if it were not accompanied by a solution to the crisis in the Nagorno-Karabakh region and the occupied Azerbaijani territories from the Armenian side.

Reviving the Turkish-Armenian process of normalization will have an impact not only on foreign policy and its regional elements for both Turkey and Armenia, but in a new geopolitical equation by all standards. Turkish-Armenian relations outside the borders are more complicated, where most of the Armenian diaspora’s lobbies reject and oppose normalization. This process must be accompanied by dealing with the root causes of the tensions, which should hopefully lead to increased trust between the countries.

The common border between Armenia and Turkey extends 330 km, and diplomatic relations between the two countries have not yet been established. The complex relations between the two neighboring countries are caused by many reasons. The most prominent are the demands of Ankara for Yerevan to settle the conflict with Azerbaijan, do research on the events of 1915 in the archives of other countries in addition to the Turkish and Armenian archives, establish a joint historical committee that includes Turkish and Armenian historians and international experts. Solving the issue through the perspective of “fair memory,” which means, in short, abandoning the one-sided view of history, each side understands what the other has lived and mutual respect for each party’s past memory.

Today it is difficult to believe that Washington and western capitals can mediate the rest of the region’s issues after 28 years of failed experience in settling the Azerbaijani and Armenian conflict. This is related to many factors, as Washington’s tendency towards Armenia comes largely through the desire to pressure Turkey. No less important is the issue of America-Turkey disputes in the Middle East. These were exacerbated after 2013 and the Syrian wars through the support of the administration of former President Barack Obama, the Syrian extension of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) (classified on terrorist lists in NATO and several regional countries), through this threatening the interests of a member state of NATO, in addition to the issue of extradition of Fethullah Gülen residing in the United States. At the same time, Armenia’s cooperation with Russia and Iran is seen as a serious challenge to the United States’ position in the Caucasus.

It is also difficult to view the French diplomatic move on the Caucasus conflict only through the influence of the Armenian lobby in France. Here we notice Macron opposing Ankara in the Mediterranean, as well as the French position on the Turkish-Greek conflict, the complex Cyprus issue, the confrontation in Libya and Paris’ support for separatist terrorism in the Syrian Arab Republic, which threatens the territorial integrity of the Syrian Arab Republic and later will threaten Turkey and other countries, including Russia in the southern and northern Caucasus.

Finally, after Moscow concluded an agreement to end the battles between Azerbaijan and Armenia with a new map of the powers of control different from those that followed the first Karabakh war, it is true that we are not talking about the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, but it also appears to be incomplete, where the land blockage is continuing on the Turkish borders of Armenia. The question is whether Russia has an interest today in completing what it started in Karabakh and opening a new page in relations between Turkey and Armenia? After the second Karabakh war revealed, among many other things, that Armenia’s interests are with Moscow and Ankara, not with Washington and Paris.

From our partner RIAC

Dr.Basel Haj Jasem
Dr.Basel Haj Jasem
Ph.D., Researcher, Political advisor