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The Caucasus Imperative

Analysis / Caucasus
_HWK6985YEREVAN – Summit season is upon us. Following the G-20 meetings in Seoul and the NATO summit in Portugal, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe will hold its first summit in 10 years in Astana, Kazakhstan’s spanking new capital city.

This is only the fourth post-Cold War summit convened by the OSCE. The first was held in 1994 in Budapest, the year the group transformed itself into a new, post-détente organization. There were two more, in Lisbon in 1996 and in Istanbul in 1999.

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A Reset in the Caucasus

Analysis / Caucasus

YEREVAN – Will Turkey’s current turmoil between Prime Minister Recep Tayip Erdoğan and the country’s powerful army complicate and delay the country’s boldest initiatives in years – the moves to address decades-old tensions with both Armenians and Kurds?

Restructuring the role of Turkey’s army is vital, but if Turkey cannot follow through with the Armenian and Kurdish openings, the country’s own domestic situation, its relations with the two peoples, as well as tensions in the Caucasus, will undoubtedly worsen. Of the several flashpoints in the region, including that between Georgia and Russia over South Ossetia and Abkhazia, the tension between Armenians and Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh is among the most challenging.

As to Georgia and Russia, the disproportionate size, weight, and power on one side are enough to deter any return to violence. Moreover, there are no entangling alliances complicating the matter.

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Armenia-Turkey Protocols Signed

Analysis / Caucasus
First Step – Capitulation: The ill-constructed protocols signaling the beginning of formal relations between Armenia and Turkey received an uncertain and inauspicious signing in Zurich. The parties themselves and the representatives of the world powers, all were present but all remained silent. When such a ‘historic’ moment goes by with none of the sides or the witnesses able to say anything acceptable to the rest, either about the long-awaited event itself or the content of the documents being signed – it becomes obvious that these documents are in fact full of the contradictions and expectations that do not engender the serious trust and respect necessary for stable and respectful relations between countries.
Those within and outside Armenia who support this process label all those against it as nationalists, extremists or those who categorically reject all relations with Turkey. But I, and others like me, who have for decades wanted and continue to believe in the importance of Armenia-Turkey rapprochement are neither extremists or nationalists.
We are not afraid to recognize the enormous challenges of creating a new relationship in the context of overwhelming political, psychological, practical challenges. It is for fundamental political and security reasons that we oppose these protocols. We want the documents that define our reciprocal relationship to be respectful, farsighted and most of all, sustainable. These protocols are not. We want the documents to define a 21st century relationship that is as honest about past grievances as it is about contemporary political realities. These protocols are not.
Instead of an acknowledgement of the historic divide and mutual distrust that separates us, or at the very least circumventing that topic, the documents place one-sided conditions and receive one-sided concessions. Normalization has thus begun with the capitulation of the Armenian side.
Indeed these protocols – barely signed and not even ratified – have already damaged, possibly irrevocably, Armenia’s positions on the three most significant issues of national security and national identity.
First, they will hamper the resolution of the Karabakh conflict. The reason for this is simple. Any Armenian insistence of no-linkage between Armenia-Turkey and Armenian-Azerbaijani is not credulous. The linkage between the Turkey border opening and the resolution of the Karabakh conflict was clear from the beginning. Now, it’s inarguable. If the presence of the Minsk Group co-chair countries’ foreign ministers at the signing wasn’t enough, there were the last minute frantic attempts at the signing ceremony to prevent Turkey from speaking of that linkage at that forum. But the coup de grace was the Turkish Prime Minister’s unequivocal conditional announcement the day after, buttressed by the strength of his ruling party whose meeting had just concluded, that the Turkish Parliament won’t ratify these protocols until territories are returned.
Any acceptable resolution will require certain compromise on the Armenian side – including compromise on the territories surrounding Karabakh. Many would say that such compromise would have been necessary eventually regardless of Armenia-Turkey relations. This is true. But in this conditional environment, when Turkey at every opportunity refers to the return of territories without the resolution of Karabakh’s status, even the most reasonable compromise that Armenia would have been prepared to make will be more difficult for this or any administration to make, because it will be viewed domestically as a concession made under pressure, in exchange for open borders, not for the independence of Karabakh. Even if the Turkish parliament ratifies the protocols and opens the border with the mere expectation that Armenians will return those territories in the near future, still, in the context of the forceful and repeated admonitions by the Turkish leadership, those expectations will themselves become conditions that the border opening was in exchange for possible future concessions.
Second, the nature of the genocide debate has been deeply altered. The ink on the protocols was not even dry before major news outlets and international figures began to couch their terminology, retreating from the use of the term genocide, citing the protocol’s provisions that a commission will determine what the events of 1915 really were. In other words, we have offered the international community the formalization of official Turkey’s position. If earlier, Armenians and international experts had defined the political and historical events as genocide, while the official Turkish side insisted on denying the term and the history behind the term, today, the official Turkish “doubts” have been sanctioned and will internationalize the denial of the events, their causes and consequences, and thus strengthen the historic and demographic status quo. Armenians will now be dragged into a new cycle of denial – struggling against the machinery of a state bent on rewriting history and consolidating the consequences of genocide.
Finally, this document succeeds in touching what had heretofore been a dormant but sensitive issue – the subject of borders and territorial claims. No Armenian administration had ever made such a claim of Turkey. Today, this sensitive issue has become a front-line issue. When Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu says these protocols reaffirm the provisions of the Lausanne Treaty, that means the issue of reparation and compensation is now on the table. I do not demand my ancestral home in Marash, but if that demand were really so illusive, then why is Turkey forcing me to renounce my historic links with that home?
It is important to understand that the claim on land is not merely a sentimental issue having to do with Armenian properties in Turkey 100 years ago. The issue of lands is also an important element of the Karabakh conflict. If a mere 100 years later, Turkey is able to formalize and legalize its control of lands taken forcibly, then what’s to prevent Armenians from waiting if that offers them the opportunity to formalize their control of the lands surrounding Karabakh?
On Saturday, October 10, we heard President Sargsyan’s address to the Armenian people, issued just hours ahead of the scheduled signing, the content of which was directly contradictory to the content of the protocols. It can even be said that the president’s arguments were the best reasons to reject the protocols. The address insisted that there are irrefutable realities and we have undeniable rights; the protocols on the other hand question the first and eliminate the second. Armenia, without cause and without necessity, conceded its historic rights, both regarding genocide recognition and what the address so justly called ‘hayrenazrkum’ – a denial and dispossession of our patrimony.
The administration said one thing and signed another. Normalization of Armenia-Turkey relations, as an idea even, has been discredited.
The processes – both Armenia-Turkey, and the Karabakh peace talks – are going to become more complicated and more intense, and not at all to our advantage. If Armenia does not bring this process to a halt, and return to square one, the consequences will be grave not just for the administration, but for the Armenian people.

First Step – Capitulation: The ill-constructed protocols signaling the beginning of formal relations between Armenia and Turkey received an uncertain and inauspicious signing in Zurich. The parties themselves and the representatives of the world powers, all were present but all remained silent. When such a ‘historic’ moment goes by with none of the sides or the witnesses able to say anything acceptable to the rest, either about the long-awaited event itself or the content of the documents being signed – it becomes obvious that these documents are in fact full of the contradictions and expectations that do not engender the serious trust and respect necessary for stable and respectful relations between countries.

Those within and outside Armenia who support this process label all those against it as nationalists, extremists or those who categorically reject all relations with Turkey. But I, and others like me, who have for decades wanted and continue to believe in the importance of Armenia-Turkey rapprochement are neither extremists or nationalists.

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Contradictions Obvious in Armenia-Turkey Protocols

Analysis / Caucasus

DEMEANING SIGNING FOR DEMEANING PROTOCOLS: On Saturday, October 10, we witnessed two consequential but sadly conflicting events. One was the signing of the miscalculated and ill-constructed Armenia-Turkey protocols, despite great domestic and international concern and opposition among Armenians. The second was President Sargsyan’s last-minute address to the Armenian people, issued just hours ahead of the scheduled signing, the content of which was directly and unabashedly contradictory to the content of the protocols.

Indeed, so different are the two that it can even be said that the president’s arguments were the best reasons to reject the protocols. The address insisted that there are irrefutable realities and we have undeniable rights; the protocols, on the other hand, question the first and eliminate the second. Armenia, without cause and without necessity, conceded its historic rights, both regarding genocide recognition and what the address so justly called 'hayrenazrkum' – a denial and dispossession of our patrimony.

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Consequences of Armenia-Turkey Protocols

Analysis / Caucasus

Questions That Need Answers: The Diaspora was loud, forceful and often not even civil when it delivered its message to President Serzh Sargsyan during his five-city visit intended to explain the government’s position on the protocols and ostensibly to rally support.

Paris_Protest_IWhat began inauspiciously in Paris continued in New York, Los Angeles and Beirut, and concluded in Rostov, albeit more mildly. At the end, one thing is clear. The organizers miscalculated. The content and the intensity of the reactions, responses and reception were different from what was customary and what was expected.

As a result, the government’s – more specifically, the president’s – message was not effective. The consequence of all of this is that the Diaspora is not on board. The Armenian public was already not collectively on board. Yet this is a policy and an action that requires solid support from a people who have lost much and who therefore believe they have much to lose still.

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Armenians Clash with the French Police

Analysis / Caucasus
It was not supposed to be this way. Rapprochement or normalization between Armenia and Turkey was supposed to be a normal process, signaling a historic new beginning. Two states, signing mutually acceptable documents, respecting each other’s past and intending to share a future.

Sargsyan_Paris_Protest_IIIInstead, we have been presented documents which reject the past, which endanger a stable future. This, at least in part because the processes were co-opted for domestic political purposes.

In Turkey, a popular government, eager to improve its place in the region and its image in the world, decided to open the border with Armenia, but by exacting a price from Armenia.

In Armenia, an unpopular government, eager to improve its own image in the world and its place at home, decided to take the risky step of pursuing closer relations, but without considering the costs.

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Getting This Wrong Will Be Unforgivable

Analysis / Caucasus

Sargsyan and GulWe are at a crossroads in our history. We have on the table the first bilateral document that the independent sovereign Republic of Armenia intends to sign with the Republic of Turkey. This is an unprecedented process that is far-reaching and irreversible.

Yet, the debate on the issue is going in the wrong direction. It is hugely insulting that high-level government officials can be this dismissive and trivializing on a matter that is so critical for our people.

There is no sense whatsoever in telling us that what we see is not what we get.

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Calling a Spade a Spade

Analysis / Caucasus
Tower On Armenia and Turkey BorderAttempts to analyze the present state of Armeno-Turkish relations are based on one of two hypotheses.
The first is that Turkey will not open its border with Armenia without a Karabagh settlement or progress toward one. In short, it won't open the border without Azerbaijan's assent. For the proponents of this theory, the signing of the August 31 protocols is a nightmarish development: Those documents have given Turkey, in writing, everything it had wanted of Armenia since Armenia's independence but had been unable to gain.

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Karabakh: War, Peace, Or BATNA?

Analysis / Caucasus
When Presidents Serzh Sarkisian of Armenia and Ilham Aliyev of Azerbaijan meet in St. Petersburg, they are expected to reach a breakthrough on the resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, the military phase of which was ended 15 years ago by what has become the world's longest self-maintained cease-fire.

This resolution is expected not just for its own sake, but because it is perceived as a necessary determinant of many other regional processes, including Turkish-Armenian bilateral relations, and even Azerbaijan's relations with Turkey and Russia, among others.

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Rethinking Development and Democracy

Analysis / Caucasus
Just when formerly communist countries had begun to accept that capitalism brings with it inequalities and harsh competition, the financial meltdown that turned into a global economic crisis pushed the developed world itself to question the premises, excesses and dangers of laissez-faire capitalism. The crisis brought on soul-searching everywhere. The key question to consider here in the Caucasus is whether the crisis is, at its core, solely economic or actually political.

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Facts for Thought
Number of theater performances (1) and attendance (2) in Armenia
(1) (2)
2008 2,364 409,500
2009 2,443 367,800
2010 2,331 394,800
2011 2,707 458,900
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