01/21/2022, 14.42
ARMENIA – TURKEY
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Everybody gets something out of talks between Ankara and Yerevan

by Marta Ottaviani

The first round of talks took place in Moscow, and a second will probably be held in Turkey. Peace would help Armenia break the economic isolation that made it the poorest former Soviet republic in the Caucasus. Erdogan needs a success to counter the collapse of the Turkish lira. The Kremlin would boost its diplomatic standing. The Armenian Genocide remains the main stumbling block.

Milan (AsiaNews) – Will Turkey and Armenia make peace? This could be the right time. If the thorniest obstacles were removed, everyone could get something. 

The first round of negotiations that took place in Moscow in mid-January could soon be followed by a second, this despite controversies and difficulties surrounding the process, especially in Ankara, which would have preferred a diplomatic solution with Yerevan without Moscow.

The Kremlin is directly involved and is not going to miss a golden opportunity to boost its international standing and diplomatic footprint in the Caucasus.

Diplomatic relations between Armenia and Turkey were frozen in 1993, when Ankara closed its border following the war between Armenia and Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh, a region with an Armenian majority, but in Azerbaijani territory. 

Tensions have flared up periodically over the years. In 2020 Turkish support for Azerbaijan in its conflict with Armenia proved decisive for Azerbaijani victory. However, since then, the Caucasus has become even more unstable.

Although Moscow risks losing its inherent pre-eminence, it is aware at this time, for different reasons, that a successful mediation would be convenient for everyone.

Armenia would gain by breaking the economic and trade isolation that has made it the poorest former Soviet republic in the South Caucasus.

Turkey would be internationally rehabilitated and could gain interesting opportunities, especially in infrastructure, in a country that is still backward in many respects. 

One issue remains, namely the recognition of the Armenian Genocide of 1915 by the Ottoman Empire with at least one million deaths, which Turkey refuses to acknowledge, perhaps above all, for economic reasons.

On paper, Moscow would gain the most. In fact, in the Russian capital, the talk is all about victory.  The Kremlin would see its diplomatic standing greatly increased and achieve a hegemonic position in the trade routes that will automatically open in the region.

For Ankara, this is not an appealing prospect. Nonetheless, Turkey sent to Moscow a high-profile diplomat, Serdar Kiliç, a former ambassador to the United States and a trusted man of Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu.

This is a sign that the Turkish government believes in the possibility of a positive outcome and that it is ready to invest as much as necessary in achieving it. Within government circles though, the role played by Moscow is still hard to swallow, and the preference is for bilateral talks.

While the inaugural meeting of these negotiations was held in the Russian capital, the next will be in one of the two countries, preferably Turkey, where President Erdogan needs a boost after facing declining support as a result of the devaluation of the Turkish lira.

This seems all right on paper; however, some believe that Moscow’s mediation could backfire. 

Ali Askerov, associate professor and head of the Department of Conflict Studies at the University of North Carolina-Greensboro, believes that mediation between Turkey and Armenia is possible, but the two sides could follow their own path, far from Moscow's control, thus taking a different turn from the one the Kremlin has in mind.

“In terms of real politik,” Prof Askerov told AsiaNews, “If Turkey and Armenia find a compromise from which both sides can gain in a more or less balanced way, Russia could eventually lose the most. It will be able to develop new synergies, but without dominating the process of normalisation [of relations] and the opportunities that follow from it.”

In short, Moscow is probably overplaying its cards. Tensions have marred its relationship with Turkey, an ally of convenience, and new stresses cannot be excluded; it all depends on how the situation evolves in the Caucasus.

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Turkey and Armenia should soon reach agreement young people have longed for
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