Feb 26 2009

Davos scandal strikes the first blow on Turkey's rating in Azerbaijan

Baku. Vugar Masimoglu - APA. The policy of "improving relations
with Armenians", which started with Armenia-Turkey football match,
has already passed the next stage. The reports that Ankara gave up
stipulation of Nagorno Karabakh issue in the talks with Yerevan are
observed with serious concern in the public opinion of Turkey and
Azerbaijan. Actually, the information first leaked from Armenian
sources, and it was the results of the purposeful policy. The news
"Turkey puts Nagorno Karabakh issue into the background" was a
kind of taking the pulse in the region. In fact, if Ankara had
immediately refuted the information, which was circulated by Armenia
and made a bomb effect, it would not have caused so much tension in
Azerbaijan. But Turkish government has not yet refuted the report
that Nagorno Karabakh problem, one of the three main stipulations put
forward for establishment of direct political, economic and diplomatic
relations with Armenia was removed from the political discussions. On
the contrary, official Ankara's reaction shows that AKP government
is going to take serious diplomatic steps to normalize relations
with Armenia.

AKP government's efforts to normalize the relations with Armenia are
based on a number of external and internal factors. High probability
that new U.S. administration will recognize the so-called Armenian
genocide, tension in Turkey-Israel relations makes Ankara improve
relations with Armenia. For long years efforts for recognition of the
"Armenian genocide" by the US were impeded by the Jewish lobby in
the country. But the word duel between Prime Minister Erdogan and
Israeli President in Davos cast shadow on Turkey-Israel relations
and therefore it is doubtful that Jewish lobby will help Turkey to
impede the recognition of "Armenian genocide" in the U.S. Congress.

In other words, Turkey's foreign policy is suffering from Prime
Minster's steps in Davos intended for domestic policy. That's why
official Ankara tries to remove negative results of the uncertain
relations with Israel, its serious strategic ally in the region, at the
cost of improving relations with Armenia. So, Turkey has involuntarily
made a tactical change with respect to Armenia and "Armenian genocide"
- Ankara has given up proving that these claims are false and in
stead begun to demonstrate that Turkey is interested in improving
relations with Armenia and recognition of "Armenian genocide" will
impede this improvement.

Is the change having purely defense character in Turkey's foreign
policy course permanent? It will be known after April 24. If
Turkey can persuade the United States that it is interested in
improving the relations and solving all the problems with Armenia,
the U.S. President in his annual speech will not regard the happenings
of 1915 as genocide. But for this, Turkey should take some practical
steps. Otherwise, Ankara may face more serious problems in terms of
"Armenian genocide" next year and its position in the world.

What steps is Turkey going to take to improve the relations
with Armenia? It is difficult to express concrete opinion, as
the process is going on behind the curtains. But the information
leaked to media and reactions of AKP officials allows us to say -
the process of improving the relations (or giving such an impression)
has started! AKP's goodwill messages to the Armenian community in the
country, statements made on different levels that the borders with
Armenia will open, cross-border trade will extend, the businessmen
trading with Armenia will get tax and customs concessions allow us
to surmise Turkey's next steps.

Measures taken toward the Turkish-Armenian approach were estimated for
the domestic political interests too. Weakening of the ruling party's
influence will lead to losing of votes in the municipal elections. This
fact was recognized by AKP representatives as well. AKP, which is
seriously fighting for every vote, is trying to win the support of
Armenian community (Turkey's Armenian community is close to CHP)
and business people living in the areas bordering with Armenia as
well. AKP election campaign in the Eastern Anatolia is based on the
theses of allowance for the free trade with Armenia and its impact
on improvement of social situation of the population in border areas.

Long-time different campaigns (involving the international
organizations, financial institutions, political parties,
municipalities, non-governmental organizations, media and etc.) were
provided in that region for direct trade with Armenia and small
electorate, which is wishing the normalization of relations with
Armenia, was formed in Ardahan, Kars, Igdir and Agri provinces. One
of the reasons forcing AKP government to approach with Armenia is to
win the support of that electorate. The government should take control
over the municipalities in the border areas to open the borders with
Armenia. Therefore the opening of borders became the main strategic
line in the election campaign.

Basic reasons of the Ankara-Yeravan approach are known and the protest
of Azerbaijan against this approach is also known. How long will
this concern last and will Ankara take measures to lift it? Turkish
foreign policy yet doesn't show a willingness to do that. Ankara
doesn't express weighty reaction to the reports about its retracting
the one of the basic principles of the Turkish diplomacy - settlement
of the Nagorno Karabakh conflict.

The statements made so far show that Turkey will not take into
consideration the interests of the third countries in its policy
toward Armenia. This message was sent to Azerbaijan because there
is no other country except Azerbaijan, which is concerning over this
approach. It is naturally that Azerbaijan concerns over it, because
Turkey is intending to normalize its relations with Armenia at the
expense of interests of our country.

Turkey's foreign policy toward Armenia was always formed within
the triangle of Ankara-Baku-Yerevan and three conditions were
basic principles in the relations with Yerevan: Armenia must
leave its territorial and 1915 "genocide" claims against Turkey,
must unconditionally withdraw its forces from the occupied lands of
Azerbaijan. Over the past 20 years, Turkey followed this course and
didn't leave it even in the most difficult times. But now Ankara
was forced to change this course and to disregard the Azerbaijan's
interests. Turkey took out the Nagorno Karabakh issue from the
discussions to prevent the recognition of "Armenian genocide" this
year. What costs it will pay in the next years?

Essence of the tensions in the Azerbaijani society is that Turkey gave
away the Azerbaijan's interests for its unsuccessful foreign policy.

AKP government, which is trying to eliminate the results of
its unsuccessful foreign policy at the expense of approach with
Armenia, and blamed media for the concerns among the Azerbaijani
society. Azerbaijani media is sharply criticizing the Turkish-Armenian
approach, but these critics are targeting not Turkey, but the AKP
government, which is making mistakes in the foreign policy. Undoubtedly
the Turkey's unsuccessful foreign policy toward Armenia will severely
hurt Azerbaijan. Attempts to approach with Armenia are the signals
of threats, because it is impossible to believe that Turkey, which
abandoned the interests of Northern Cyprus and Kirkuk, will meet the
interests of Azerbaijan.