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Karabakh Conflict and Turkey-Armenia Relations

DPE Ortak Kuruluşu

Turkish Foreign Policy

BY SÜMER ESİN ŞENYURT

 The occupation of Azerbaijani territories by Armenia is called the Nagorno-Karabakh problem. Although this problem is regional, it is an obstacle to issues such as cooperation and global peace. If this issue is reaching a permanent solution, including Armenia and Azerbaijan as a priority, Turkey will also be positively affected by this solution. In order to find a correct solution, the causes of the problems should be determined well and the factors related to the problems should be analyzed. After the Armenians settled in the region from the 19th century, conflicts started to take place. Turkey is playing an active role in the Karabakh issue because its past ties with Azerbaijan and the fact that it is one of the region’s border neighbors have enabled Turkey to be an actor who can influence the process. Turkey tried to solve the problem in a peaceful way in the international arena by following a policy of safe and careful. In my report, I will examine Turkey’s foreign relations with Armenia, focusing on the Karabakh conflict.

The Karabakh conflict is an important issue that determines the relations between Turkey and Armenia. However, this is not the only problem between the two countries, the fact that the Armenians saw eastern Anatolia as an Armenian territory they had lost and wanted to take it back is also a problem between the bilateral relations. Article 11 of the Armenian Declaration of Independence states that “Our Eastern Anatolian provinces are described as ‘Western Armenia’ and Armenia will continue its efforts to recognize the 1915 genocide.”[1] Despite this attitude of Armenia, in beginning, the Turkish government had a distant attitude towards the Karabakh conflict. As an example, Turkey sold one hundred thousand tons of wheat to Armenia, and this helped to neutralize the embargo imposed by Azerbaijan on Armenia at that time. This condition shows that Turkey was not supportive of Azerbaijan at the beginning of the events and that Turkey had no intention of attracting the reaction of the West and Russia. Turkey did not take a stand against Armenia until the Khojaly massacre in 1992. After this incident, Turkey has changed its policy towards Armenia. Turkey’s decision to close its border with Armenia can be described as Turkey’s most important and concrete step in this problem. According to Gökçe, ‘’Turkey has some rights arising from the Treaties of Kars and Gyumri, and whether they should intervene militarily to stop the attacks of Armenians on the Nakhchivan region has been a topic of debate’’ (Gökçe, 2011:1148). In May 1992, the transfer of the problem to an international organization such as the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe has been seen as the right step for Turkey.  After this development, a peaceful solution to this problem was sought in the Minsk Group affiliated to the OSCE, which was formed to solve the Karabakh conflict. Another factor effective in the solution of the Karabakh conflict is Russia. İşyar states that: ‘’Russia has taken steps from time to time to be decisive in the solution of the Karabakh conflict by eliminating institutions such as the OSCE’’ (İşyar, 2004:79). On the other hand, Turkey’s policies on the Karabakh issue directly affected its relations with Armenia. Whether Turkey should open its borders with Armenia has often been the subject of debate. In this context, meetings were held at the level of leaders. Serzh Sargsyan, during his meeting with Abdullah Gül in 2009, stated that the Karabakh conflict should be separated from the relations with Turkey.[2] In 2009 between the foreign ministers of Turkey and Armenia signed the ”Protocol on Development of Relations Between The Republic of Turkey and The Republic of Armenia” (Arslanlı, 2015:213). The negotiations and signed protocols with Armenia were perceived negatively in Azerbaijan, and the Turkish government announced that it would not open the border crossings unless the Nagorno-Karabakh issue was resolved. It can be seen that the key point in the relationship between Armenia and Turkey is the Karabakh problem. Moreover, Turkey’s attitude affects relations with Azerbaijan in parallel. In addition, The Karabakh conflict has affected Turkey-Armenia and Azerbaijan relations, while at the same time it has been an obstacle in the transition of rich energy resources around the Caspian Sea to the international market. Therefore, the Nagorno-Karabakh problem is very important for the policies of Russia, USA, and the EU. In parallel, Turkey’s attitudes also lead positively or negatively to its relations with these countries and international organizations.

 As a result of these processes, Turkey has been an important regional actor in the past and today. If the Karabakh conflict is not resolved, it does not seem possible to improve relations between Armenia and Turkey. The historical ties between Azerbaijan and Turkey and the fact that Azerbaijan is a country with rich resources make this country important for Turkey. The solution to this problem will improve the relations between the countries. At the same time, the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict affects countries such as Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Turkey, as well as USA ve Russia. Therefore, it can be said that the Karabakh conflict is a problem affecting other countries on a global scale in international relations. So, The solution to this problem is important and a strategic move by Turkey affects the relationship with other countries like a domino. Turkey can choose three moves that will affect its relationship with Armenia. Armenia does not approach Turkey as a friendly neighbor country and has aggressive attitudes. Even though Turkey did not open its border, it opened the air corridor with Armenia and started flights. If Turkey had pursued a tougher policy, it would not have done so. Secondly, While Turkey continues its policy of Armenia in its current form, it can make its voice heard more and show other countries that it is right and gather more supporters. As a third option, Turkey may try to improve its relations with Armenia, but I think it will be a unilateral concession. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has made it clear that the opening of borders cannot be done without the Armenian army leaving the territory of Azerbaijan. I think Turkey should continue its current policy. In my opinion, Armenia should stop claiming territory from its neighbors in order to improve its relations with other countries and Turkey. At the same time, if Armenia ends its occupation of Azerbaijan territory and renounces its aggression against Turkey, Armenia can cooperate with neighboring countries. As a result, the Caucasus will be a more peaceful region.

References

Ömer Göksel İşyar, Sovyet-Rus Dış Politikaları ve Karabağ Sorunu, Alfa Yay., Bursa 2004.

Araz Arslanlı, Karabağ Sorunu ve Türkiye-Ermenistan İlişkileri, Berikan Yayınevi, Ankara 2015.

Gökçe, Mustafa, Yukarı Karabağ Sorunu ve Türkiye Ermenistan İlişkileri Üzerine Bir Değerlendirme, Turkish Studies, International Periodical For The Languages, terature and History of Turkish or Turkic, Volume 6/1 Winter 2011, p. 1139-1154


[1] Türkiye Büyük Millet Meclisi Genel Kurul Tutanağı, www.tbmm.gov.tr, (09.08.2020 ).

[2] Armenia says Nagorny Karabakh ‘separate’ from Turkey relations” https://sputniknews.com/, (10.08.2020).

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