Turkey should make friends with Armenia to win confidence of the European Union

On 26 February, ArmInfo published an interview with Dr Kambeck, Secretary General of EuFoA, about the open letter released by the Europe-Armenia Advisory Council calling upon a prompt intervention of the EU on the Turkey-Armenia rapprochement.

 

Below we provide you with the whole interview from ArmInfo.

Turkey should make friends with Armenia to win confidence of the European Union

(Source: http://www.arminfo.info/index.php?show=archive&number=20100302_114500_eng_20167)

 

The Europe-Armenia Advisory Council (EAAC), being a structure of the European Friends of Armenia organization, sent an open letter to the European political figures and EU representatives, urging the European structures to get involved in the process of normalization of the Armenian-Turkish relations.

In the letter, addressed to President of the European Parliament Jerzy Buzek, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton, Chairman of EP Foreign Affairs Committee Gabrielle Albertini and EU Special Representative for the South Caucasus Peter Semneby, contains an appeal to affect Armenia and Turkey for them to ratify the Protocols without preconditions in a reasonable time period of two months. What instruments may the EU use to urge Turkey to ratify Protocols within a timeframe of no more than 2 months as you recommended?

 

I am pretty sure that the new High Representative Baroness Ashton, as quasi EU-Foreign Minister, will soon be more public on this issue and make a statement that the EU welcomes the Armenian steps towards ratification and invites Turkey to follow suit. Turkey needs to know that the world is watching it. The EU is already quite tired about Turkey signing treaties but never ratifying or implementing them, like in the example of Cyprus. The unique thing about the ongoing process is that an EU-US-Russia consensus has been reached, advocating for unconditional and timely ratification of the protocols. That consensus lays the basis for a very favourable environment for the EU action given the latter’s commitment for an effective multilateralism in the international arena. Let’s not forget that the EU has new and much more effective rules for its foreign policy.

 

EU now has all necessary means to reach its declared ambitions of becoming a stronger, more coherent and pro-active actor in the Caucasus. The EU wants peace and growth and can achieve this in co-operation with Russia and the USA. Practically this means: a common statement of all 27 Member States urging Turkey to seriously engage in the ratification of the protocols.

 

Moreover, a high level EU visit to the region in order to deliver its firm message to the political actors concerned and setting up mechanisms for cross-border cooperation and rehabilitation of transport and communication infrastructure along the border. The US and Russia have made some similar steps or are considering them. The EU now has the tools to do all of this and I am happy that, not least after the recent open letter by the EAAC (Europe-Armenia Advisory Council), the EU is very committed to act in an even stronger and more visible manner.

 

An issue of rapprochement between Armenia and Turkey and reopening the border has never been a key issue in the process of Turkey’s joining the EU. Yet, don’t you think the EU should clearly put such a precondition in its own negotiation?

 

We must not forget that the Turkish accession bid is a very old one and that when it was filed, Armenia was still part of the USSR. Since then there has been a very vivid debate in the EU which conditions to apply, but there was a consensus that Turkey should join! This debate always included good relations with Turkey’s neighbours, but unfortunately did not specify Armenia explicitly in the accession conditions.

 

However, the European Commission has made it clear several times that it cannot imagine an accession with unresolved neighbourly problems, especially with Cyprus, Syria and Armenia. The European Parliament has been even more explicit making this condition in several resolutions and this Parliament will need to vote on the accession treaty to ratify it. So formally, it may not be a precondition, but Turkey knows very well that it is a problem they need to resolve before being able to join.

 

Let me add that it is a good thing that the normalisation of relations with Armenia are not formally linked to the EU accession, because this would only give more arguments to the nationalists in Turkey who want to kill the EU-accession process. In reality, the EU is formulating this question in a different way: does Turkey want to become a mature, credible and modern international player or does it want to have its foreign policy defined by its more extreme nationalists and Azerbaijan? This fundamental question needs an answer, and this answer is in the interest of Turkey and the EU and the whole region. It is in Turkey’s interest to develop into a mature and reliable state, which will make everyone gain. So there are many reasons why Turkey will need to reconcile ties with Armenia before an EU accession, but not necessarily because of the EU accession.

 

The open letter called upon Azerbaijan to contribute to the ongoing Armenia-Turkey process. How practical it is to ask for efforts from Azerbaijan taking into account the existing animosity between Armenia and Azerbaijan?

 

It is my firm belief and that of the EAAC (Europe-Armenia Advisory Council) that the implementation of the provisions of the protocols will promote peace, stability and progress in the entire region. Azerbaijan’s efforts to derail the Armenia-Turkey rapprochement is a direct threat to this positive perspective of regional stability. It is clear that the vital condition for such a positive development consists in decoupling the Armenia-Turkey normalisation from the final resolution of the NKR conflict. In other words, linking these two issues will certainly kill the prospects of solution for both of them. The EU, Russia and the US know that and say this more or less openly.

 

The EAAC called especially upon Azerbaijan to turn towards a constructive policy in order to remind publicly that Azerbaijan currently is a key obstacle! I think Azerbaijan has done a great job in recent years to create a hostile and undemocratic image of its country and this call and similar calls can only be an appeal to their reason: it is in Azerbaijan’s interest to improve its image and to achieve more stability and growth in the Caucasus.

 

Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair in the Annual Threat Assessment of the US Intelligence Community, stated that “Although there has been progress in the past year toward Turkey-Armenia rapprochement, this has affected the delicate relationship between Armenia and Azerbaijan, and increases the risk of a renewed conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh”. What do you think about this alarming prediction that actually threatens the development of two processes?

 

The news is that in this year’s Annual Threat Assessment of the US Intelligence Community the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict has had the attention it deserves and is not overshadowed by other regional confrontations. Therefore, there are chances that such an assessment will trigger a stronger commitment of the US, alongside with France and Russia, for the resolution of the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh.

 

However, I cannot agree with this assessment. The key factor missing to achieve a breakthrough is political will on the Azeri side to sign what has already been agreed upon in the framework of the Minsk group negotiations. Azeri war rhetorics repeatedly threatening to take back NKR by force, don’t really prepare the Azeri public for a peaceful solution – there is no such political will.

 

In fact, the only thing that I can imagine to convince Azerbaijan to agree to a durable compromise is if they don’t feel that Turkey will at all costs always be on its side, even allowing Azerbaijan to determine much of the Turkish foreign policy. This means that any success registered on Armenia-Turkey bi-laterals has the potential to contribute to the security in South Caucasus and not to hinder it.

 

Swedish Parliament prepares to vote on a motion that describes the killing of Armenians during the collapse of the Ottoman Empire as Genocide. Another motion is under the way in the American Congress. Meanwhile, Turkey believes such motions hamper its efforts to normalize its fragile relations with Armenia. What do you think? Why it is important to pursue this issue in the foreign Parliaments?

 

The alleged linkage between the international recognition of the Armenian genocide and the steps to be undertaken for the normalisation of Armenia-Turkey relations seems to be the latest excuse fabricated by some Turkish political circles to obstruct the ratification of the protocols in the Turkish Parliament. We at EuFoA, together with EAAC (Europe-Armenia Advisory Council), reject any such linkage.
In other words, the international recognition and acknowledgement of the Armenian genocide, and genocides in general, is not only a right of the victims and their descendants, it is rather a universal duty of any civilised society, genocides being a crime against humanity.

 

Besides, Turkey only developed the necessary energy to move ahead in the rapprochement last April, just before the Genocide memorial day. I think it is clear that potential international recognitions don’t slow down the process but can actually make a positive contribution, including educating the Turkish public about its past and its neighbor.
Interview by Oksana Musaelyan, February 26, 2010.

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