Turkey didn’t exactly know what journey it was embarking on

Please find below the exclusive interview of Dr Michael Kambeck, Secretary General of European Friends of Armenia, for Mediamax Agency (mediamax.am).

 

 

“Turkey didn’t exactly know what journey it was embarking on”

(Exclusive interview of Dr Michael Kambeck, Secretary General of European Friends of Armenia (EUFOA), to Mediamax Agency, May 2010)

(source: http://www.mediamax.am/?sub=interview_michael_kambeck)

 

 

On April 22, Armenian President announced factual suspension of the process on normalizing relations with Turkey until Ankara demonstrates readiness to advance and ratifies protocols, singed in October, 2009. Does this mean the end of the process or can one really expect its revival some time later?

– The normalization of relations between Turkey and Armenia is inevitable! It is in both countries’ interest and it will come. Unfortunately, I don’t see it coming in the nearer future anymore. Turkey has let the moment pass, the window of opportunity is very probably closed for now. I hope for a renewed initiative, perhaps by Switzerland, but I fear that we will have to wait until after the elections in Turkey, and then probably also in Armenia.

My hope is that, whatever the Turkish leadership will be, the Turkish President will travel to Yerevan in 5 years through an open border and remember the victims of the Genocide after 100 years – in which ever form. It would mean that the maturing Turkish state has reached the level that apparently they still need time to reach to. Even today, the Turkish society is already much ahead of its populist government.

 

Nothing is said about Nagorno-Karabakh in Armenian-Turkish protocols; however representatives of the Turkish leadership has been openly and persistently stating over the past few months that normalization of Armenian-Turkish relations is impossible without progress in Karabakh conflict settlement. These statements were made against the background of repeated urges of the EU and U.S. to normalize relations without preconditions. According to you, was Turkey initially geared up for normalizing relations without progress in Karabakh issue or did EU and U.S. simply fail to estimate the scales of Azerbaijan’s negative reaction?

– I think it is clear that the Turkish foreign policy is much less strategic and co-ordinated than it is often perceived. Another example for this was the contradictory reaction from the Foreign Minister and the Prime Minister to Obama’s Genocide message. On the rapprochement, I think that they didn’t exactly know what journey they were embarking on, but they also didn’t want to be the obstructive player and they didn’t want to act against their own so-called zero-problems-policy.

President Sargsyan called that bluff. He also positioned Armenia very visibly as a reliable and constructive international player. And apart from that, the whole debate has put Armenia, Armenian-Turkish relations and the issue of the Genocide recognition onto the international political agenda.

Turkey was not prepared for that and was trying to develop its policy as it went along. Finally, it became clear that the ultranationalists have the upper hand and that Turkey prefers to let its foreign policy be determined by Azerbaijan than by its own geo-political interests. Neither the EU, nor the US or Russia are to be blamed for the internal political climate in Ankara.

 

There is an opinion that factual freezing of Armenian-Turkish relations will be more painless for Moscow rather than for Washington and Brussels, since, as opposed to the relations of Turkey with the West, where there are quite a few contradictions, the Russian-Turkish relations live through an unprecedented rise over the past few years. What is your opinion concerning this?

– For Russia, it would me much better to have no more rifts between Armenia, its key ally in the Caucasus, and Turkey, its biggest hope for a partnership in the Middle East. How long the new Russian-Turkish friendship will last, nobody knows. They are also competitors in their most sensitive strategic role: the energy sector.

All international partners have a strong interest in peace and stability in the South Caucasus. Russia has invested most in the region and would win or lose most, depending the developments between Armenia, Turkey and Azerbaijan. There is currently a rare consensus between Russia, the US and the EU that this rapprochement would serve everybody’s interest. This is why it is so bitter that Turkey did not want to ratify the protocols “within a reasonable timeframe”, as was agreed and repeatedly called for by the three big powers.

The window of opportunity is now very probably closed for some time and it remains to be seen if this consensus among the big players will prevail in 3 or 5 years.

 

It is obvious that normalization of relations with Turkey will provide Armenia with far more opportunities for maneuver in foreign policy and will open the “door to the West”. It is also obvious that Turkey is not going to sacrifice its interests to this factor. Does this mean that the U.S. and EU are unable to play the role of an efficient mediator at this stage?

– Turkey must understand its interests in the normalization, it cannot be forced. It’s the same situation as in the case of the Minsk Group and the Nagorno Karabakh negotiations. You cannot work with reason and mediation of interests if one side prepares its own population for nothing else but confrontation. Before the current one, no Armenian government followed a clever and courageous strategy on this, visibly preparing the own population for a better future. This has won Armenia much credit, and the international community has seen who is a reliable partner and who is not.

Especially the EU is quite sick of Turkey signing contracts and then never implementing them, like in the case of Cyprus.

Armenia is now, not by chance, far ahead in the implementation of the Eastern Partnership Programme and the support from high level EU players has never been so strong – thinking of Commissioner Ashton’s recent statements and several high-level EU visits to Yerevan.

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