Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Historic Development in Turkey-Armenia Relations

Turkey and Armenia announced today that they would establish diplomatic relations. If the protocols are formally ratified by the two countries before the deadline, it would spell the end of Turkey's sixteen-year blockade of Armenia. Turkey closed its border with its Caucasian neighbor in 1993, during the Armenian-Azerbaijani war over Nagorno-Karabakh. I do not know enough about domestic politics in Armenia at the moment to speculate on whether serious political obstacles exist in the country to prevent ratification. Many Armenians in Armenia, Nagorno-Karabakh, and the large Diaspora will certainly protest any change in relations with Turkey that does not address the issue of genocide recognition. In Turkey, there are also likely to be voices, especially among opponents of Erdogan, against opening the border with Armenia.

More interesting for watchers of the region will be the fallout among Turkey's and Armenia's neighbors: especially Azerbaijan, Georgia, Russia, and Iran. For Azerbaijan, the Turkish move is a serious a blow, as the blockade was one of Azerbaijan's major instruments in pressuring Armenia during negotiations over Nagorno-Karabakh. For Georgia, the opening of the Turkish-Armenian border means increased competition and the end of profits from shipping Turkish goods to Armenia via Georgia. Both will likely become even more dependent on the U.S. for aid and protection.

For Russia, which has emerged as Armenia's main backer in recent years, the deal means both an improvement in relations with Turkey and new opportunities for energy development. Turkey perhaps stands to gain the most - on the ground and in international diplomacy.


Nobody said...

Impossible things do happen, don't they?

Amos said...

It's very hard to gauge where Turkey is going. There has been talk for at least the past 5 years about Turkey choosing a more "eastern" orientation, in all of its various senses. People are wondering whether Turkey is moving closer to Russia, for example. I don't know if that's true. My sense is that the Turks are interested in a) massive growth, and b) diversifying their economic and strategic options.

Ultimately, the opening of the border will be good for Turkey and for Armenia (though it might not be good for issues that matter to many Armenians there and abroad).

I think Turkey is slowly trying to tie up its domestic loose ends. There has been a lot of work on the Kurdish issue (inside Turkey) recently, though it remains to be seen what happens. The Turks are also very keen on reaching a stable accommodation with the Iraqi Kurds, something that is certainly in the interest of both parties.

I wonder how these developments will play themselves out in the Azerbaijani press and what repercussions, if any, they will have on relations between Turkey and Azerbaijan.

Nobody said...

I think it's just this - tying up loose ends, domestic and around. They are just putting themselves in order.

Nobody said...

By the way, I don't remember if I sent you a link to this, Iran and demoigraphics. Turkey should be now close to the peak of its demographic window. Good time to generate massive growth. Muslim countries that were the first to start with demographic transition like Iran, Turkey and others should be reaping the bulk of their demographic dividend during this and the next decade. This is on condition of course that they can create employment for all these people.