It is necessary to create a public interest regarding Armenian-Turkish normalisation and cooperation especially today we had only calculation of interest by leadership, just within regional politics and as one my Turkish colleagues formulated this. Armenian-Turkish normalisation shouldn’t derive from the Turkish regional policy, I think Armenian-Turkish normalisation should be derived from the necessity of neighbourhood, and open borders.
AIISA Founder Styopa Safaryan’s speech in the symposium entitled “Projections for the Future of Turkish-Armenian Relations,” organized by AVİM (Center for Eurasian Studies) in collaboration with Konrad Adenauer Stiftung, in Ankara, on 16 December 2015
Thank you very much. First of all, let me thank Konrad Adenauer Stiftung and AVİM for organising this conference, this roundtable which is indeed some sort of dialogue that we regularly need to talk to each other, even though we have different perspectives and different approaches to Armenian-Turkish normalisation and reconciliation process. I am not a historian, I am not going to go into details of history but I would like to comment on Mr. Davutoğlu’s remarks that we lived in shared common geography and had common history. Today we created quite different histories and perhaps professor Çiçek’s presentation was one of them, if we had some Armenian historian speaking about those facts we will have the next history. I am not judging, I am not a judge to tell which history is true but the fact is that we created these two histories. We created these two geographies as well. The first one is where Armenia lives with its allies, friends vis-à-vis its enemies and threats. Another one is created by Turkey, again, where Turkey lives with its friends and allies vis-à-vis its fears and threats. Those conflicts -historical or even modern as Nagorno-Karabakh conflict- became another serious factor impacting our relations, we have these two significant factors framing our relations and channelling our relations as well. Certainly historicism has strong influence on bilateral relations. But we shouldn’t accept that those two conflicts of far and near history generated existential issues, security issues and threats as well. For the Armenian side, of course, it is about Turkish policy vis-à-vis Armenia and particularly Turkey’s policy of blockade and isolation, which is perceived by Armenians as a hostile and punishing policy. And to some extent, this unfolded situation reminds us of the existence of a state of “no war, no peace”, a term that we usually use to describe Armenian-Azerbaijani relations, but to some extent, as I said, this is the state of affairs for Armenian-Turkish relations as well. Especially when blockade is well known as a form of non-declared war. That is the perception of Armenia on Turkey’s Armenia policy. I do not speak on behalf of Turkey, perhaps Turkey also has its own fears from Armenia and Armenian calls and claims to recognize Armenian genocide, but anyway, this is the world, these are two histories and two geographies where we live.
This is typical for our relations, the no war no peace situation. We have a strategy that is inherent to war or war-like situations, when the parties to the conflict dream or pursue the goal of forcing the other party to capitulate. This is what we are doing now. Because of these security threats and fears and challenges that we entered into, we created two geographies and two histories. Armenia entered into alliance with Russia as well as using international recognition of Armenian genocide to decrease the asymmetry in both conflicts that are framing and channelling our relations, and to contain Turkey and the Baku-Ankara alliance. In this term, beyond regional interests of course, Turkey uses Nagorno-Karabakh conflict as a tool of leverage to contain Armenia.
But at this pattern -situation or system as mathematicians would like to formulateis this sustainable? My answer is no. Political practice and statistics for similar cases speaks for themselves. In reality, we have not much options. Either we continue mutual containment or capitulation policy, even punishing policy or some sort of proxy wars, let’s use this wording as well, because we are getting happy when the other side is suffering or causing some damages to its interest. Either we normalise bilateral relations to open a sincere dialogue. Not only Armenian genocide but possible shared interests and confidence-building policies. As I said, the third option; keeping some sort of status quo is less likely. Our mutual understanding attitude and policies are too much dependent on those conflicts. Those conflicts are asymmetric with all their inherent implications, that is openness for third parties, and we see that, involvement of third countries in our conflicts, asymmetric pattern of mutual attention. This is typical for ArmenianTurkish relations because one side is just looking carefully on the other side’s undertakings and policies. While for the other side, the party to the conflict is less important in this policy. Finally, we also have a vicious circle of rhetoric that is also inherent to asymmetric conflict. Those characteristics of asymmetric conflicts are well studied in political science, I don’t want to go into details and consequences that they may have, but they prove that, as I said the middle option, just keeping the situation and living on different sides of closed borders and different geographies and different histories is less likely. If some distinguished colleagues and scholars consider that scenario likely then they should also accept that this scenario will go with the first scenario. I mean, containment or capitulation scenario hand in hand. Therefore, coming to the normalisation scenario, let me conclude with some recommendations. I would say that they are not original and unique at all. They are well known in practice and in theory.
We need to transform our conflict. This is really important. Which implies, in my understanding, first of all, changing the frame. What I mean, unless the conflict does not share interests and perspectives frame the relations, then one could not expect other positive dynamics, because those conflicts and their factors will prevail and generate security threats, security interests and they will be prioritized in our domestic and foreign policies.
So that is why widening the frame is important and starting to cooperate in different spheres (energy, transport, economy, discussions on common shared interest perspectives etc.) will broaden and widen this frame and will create another platform, for not only confidence building measures, but for changing the policy signals, messages. Otherwise, as I said, security interests and concerns will prevail and remain as the only significant factor and channel relations as now.
Third recommendation; unburden the relations from issues of third countries. It is again about Nagorno-Karabakh conflict which became a tough issue on Armenian-Turkish agenda. If we speak about bilateral relations -and I like the term used in the title of our workshop- then it is funny and really ridiculous to talk about and bring third countries into the discussion. I think just to compare - some colleagues may argue this is because of Azerbaijani-Turkish connections, brother and so on- then, I will bring another example. Will Armenia use TurkishRussian conflict in its bilateral agenda with Turkey? Would it be funny or okay? I think it would be funny to condition its relations with Turkey with third country’s interests. Unfortunately because of this connection and linkage of NagornoKarabakh conflict with Armenian-Turkish normalisation process, we have very concerning messages on Turkish policy vis-à-vis Armenia, because in Yerevan the perception is that either Turkey is not interested in Armenian-Turkish reconciliation or this conflict is only a pretext to avoid facing bilateral issues. This is one form of interpretation you can meet in Yerevan, either the conflict of Nagorno-Karabakh is used by Turkey to jump in the Caucasus and be engaged in Caucasian affairs, therefore normalisation of Armenian-Turkish relations is not a strategic goal but a technical tool for Ankara. This is another interpretation you can meet in Yerevan. Normalisation of relations with Armenia is not seen as a priority for Turkey at all and precondition of Nagorno-Karabakh conflict settlement is just assisting the national interests of strategic partners like Azerbaijan. There are so many interpretations of Turkish policy on NagornoKarabakh conflict.
My next recommendation is about diffusing the tension, and changing the messages and policy. This is what we need now. Of course, the shortest way of reconciliation will be facing the historical facts among the recognition of the Armenian genocide and as professor advised not to use this word, I do not think that it’s a matter of a number of victims of genocide, it is a number of labelling, but it is about some horrible, some terrible crimes that happened. It is not what and how to describe this, and of course the better way, the shortest way of reconciliation would be the recognition of the Armenian genocide, but as given the current circumstances and background and the official stance of Turkish state, of course no one expects that to happen in the near future. But it doesn’t mean that we cannot talk normalisation and confidence-building, just in parallel with some steps that are about open debate and we see that to be frank, we appreciate that and we hear different voices in Turkey right now about this period of history.
I think that the final thing I would say is, it is necessary to create a public interest regarding Armenian-Turkish normalisation and cooperation especially today we had only calculation of interest by leadership, just within regional politics and as one my Turkish colleagues formulated this. Armenian-Turkish normalisation shouldn’t derive from the Turkish regional policy, I think Armenian-Turkish normalisation should be derived from the necessity of neighbourhood, and open borders.
I think, my last point would be that of course I understand that it is impossible to return to those protocols taking into account all these troubles and intractability in both countries, and mostly in Turkey of course, but on that matter if we would like to go further and to have some positive change in our dynamics then we should deliver different messages and not to use the old rhetoric and old dynamics and to bring the parties to the conflict together to start talking and discussing not only the past but the future as well.
The speech was printed in AVİM CONFERENCE BOOK No: 18