The primary obstacle to the peace talks moving forward is their being conditioned on the resolution of the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Turkey set the conflict as a precondition to ratifying the protocols on the normalization of relations and establishing diplomatic ties between it and Armenia -- a move Armenia vehemently rejected with the assertion that it is stifling the whole process.
The Turkish-Armenian rapprochement talks are being conducted confidentially, including their Washington chapter, leading to scant media coverage on the sidelines of the Nuclear Security Summit, which took place on April 12-13.
“There are renewed expectations of hope that the process of Turkish-Armenian ‘normalization’ is back on track,” Richard Giragosian, director of the Armenian Center for National and International Studies (ACNIS), told Sunday’s Zaman, adding that the meeting represented the “last chance” to salvage the stalled Turkish-Armenian protocols, which became deadlocked since the beginning of this year. Noting that although the specific results from the Washington meetings have yet to be released, the expert said many see signs that the foreign ministers of both countries are now working to find a way around the stalled protocols and are struggling to find a new alternative path to overcome the deadlocked protocols, which are now virtually stuck in the Turkish Parliament.
Speaking to Sunday’s Zaman, Efe Çaman from Yalova University said problems between Turkey and Armenia are not acute but chronic. For this reason, he said, it is not correct to wait to achieve a lasting solution in a short period. “First of all, there are efforts to complete confidence-building measures. At this point, Turkey is an important actor both in economic and geopolitical terms that Armenia cannot ignore,” Çaman said.
Global Political Trends Center (GPoT) Director Mensur Akgün said in an interview with Sunday’s Zaman that he believes the meeting in the US may in fact untangle the reconciliation knot. He said he believes the three countries involved -- Turkey, Armenia and Azerbaijan -- will all benefit from the current situation.
Noting that the government’s job is truly difficult in this sense, Çaman said regardless of this, to gain a tool, Turkey needs to partially open the Turkish-Armenian border and gain an opportunity to use the carrot-and-stick tactic in its foreign policy. As there is nothing for Armenia to lose in this status quo, he stressed, Turkey does not have any sanctions (stick).
Speaking about Sarksyan’s statements, Akgün said he understands his position, adding that these steps may increase the chances of the US president terming the Ottoman-era killings of Armenians as genocide, which is a risk for the Armenian president.
Another leg of the so-called genocide-protocols-Karabakh triangle is Azerbaijan’s opposition. It was not invited to the nuclear summit, and its reaction was furious. Noting that Davutoğlu will soon visit Baku, Akgün said the trip will also serve to lessen Azerbaijan’s opposition.
He also claimed that in line with the ever-changing nature of politics, Turkey may alter its promise to include the Nagorno-Karabakh precondition. Pointing to ongoing negotiations between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh territory, Akgün said the sides have agreed on most terms of the Madrid Principles to solve the conflict. “But normalization between Turkey and Armenia needs to move forward even in if there is no breakthrough in Karabakh. If they never make peace between each other, Turkey and Armenia will not be able to maintain the status quo forever, either,” Akgün concluded.
And in some ways, Giragosian said, it was actually helpful that Azerbaijan was not invited to the recent summit in Washington, ensuring that Baku could not bring unwelcome pressure on Ankara at this delicate stage. “This is not to say that Turkey is ignoring Azerbaijani interests, but rather is pursuing a new policy of engagement with Armenia that is now based on Turkish national interests, not simply to please the Americans and not to appease the Azerbaijanis,” the expert said. Noting that the whole process of normalization with Armenia has been driven by Turkey’s recognition of the need to correct a failed policy, Giragosian said closed borders and a lack of diplomatic relations is not a policy and that Turkey needs more, not fewer options regarding Armenia and the region.