ANKARA-YEREVAN TIES DEPEND ON KARABAKH: EXPERTS

Trend
Nov 11 2009
Azerbaijan

The Turkish parliament will not ratify the Armenia-Turkey protocols
until significant progress is made to resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh
conflict, experts said.

"The Turkish parliament has not discussed the Ankara-Yerevan
protocols yet," Turkish National Intelligence Committee former
analyst Mahir Kaynak said. "It is a message to Armenia that opening
the Turkish-Armenian border is directly linked to resolving the
Nagorno-Karabakh problem. Relations with Azerbaijan are more important
for Turkey than relations with Armenia. Official Ankara cannot allow
their deterioration."

Turkish and Armenian foreign ministers Ahmet Davutoglu and Edward
Nalbandian signed the Ankara-Yerevan protocols in Zurich Oct. 10.

Diplomatic relations between Armenia and Turkey have been torn
since 1993.

Several Turkish MPs said the protocols will not be ratified until
Armenia shows progress in resolving the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. In
an interview with Reuters the Armenian foreign minister rejected
Turkey's demand to make concessions in the conflict in exchange for
a historic rapprochement between Yerevan and Ankara.

"At present, Turkey does not plan to open the border with neighboring
Armenia," Turkish former Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said.

The conflict between the two South Caucasus countries began in 1988
when Armenia made territorial claims against Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan
lost all of Nagorno-Karabakh except for Shusha and Khojali in
December 1991. In 1992-93, Armenian armed forces occupied Shusha,
Khojali and seven districts surrounding Nagorno-Karabakh. Azerbaijan
and Armenia signed a ceasefire in 1994. The co-chairs of the OSCE
Minsk Group - Russia, France, and the U.S. -- are currently holding
peace negotiations.

In an interview with local media Oct. 10 Turkish Prime Minister
Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Ankara will never take actions contrary to
Azerbaijani interests.

The day after the protocols were signed, in an interview with the TRT1
Turkish state television channel, Davutoglu demanded that Armenia
free Azerbaijani territories as a major condition for establishing
relations with Yerevan.

Analysts believe that the parliament's decision to postpone
ratification is connected with Ankara's hope that Yerevan will make
progress in resolving the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

Turkey and Armenia have taken a wait-and-see attitude. Everyone is
waiting for the other one to take the first step. It is not surprising
that Ankara still has not ratified these protocols, European Expert
on the South Caucasus Amanda Akcakoca said.

"Turkey wants Armenia to progress on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict,
which has not happened yet," Akcakoca told Trend News in an e-mail.

She added that the Turkish leadership has repeatedly promised Baku
not to establish relations with Armenia before progress has been made
in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

The protocols between Turkey and Armenia were signed under pressure
from the EU and U.S. But this was a mistake, Turkish MP Reshad
Dogru said.

"The AKP is afraid that if it submits the protocols for consideration
to parliament, the party will face its end," Dogru told Trend News
over the phone from Ankara.

He said the ruling party realizes that if the Turkish people still
do not support the protocols, then they will be unlikely to support
them in the future.

After submitting the protocols for review, Armenia would try to
pressure Turkey with the help of the international community and urge
the execution of signed agreements, Dogru said.

"However, Turkey as a country will not open the border without first
seeing progress in the Nagorno-Karabakh problem," he said.

Armenian Center for National and Strategic Studies expert Manvel
Sargsyan said ratification without progress on Nagorno Karabakh would
be a radical denial of traditional Turkish policy, the Herald of the
Caucasus Web site reported.

He added that some countries do not want Turkey to preserve its
political traditions.

"Turkey faces a complicated choice - whether the country will be
able to defend its positions or be forced to radically change them,"
Sargsyan said.

The expert added that Turkey plays a major role in how the
Nagorno-Karabakh conflict will unfold.

If Armenia really strives to open its borders with Turkey, then it
must first resolve its problems with Azerbaijan, Kaynak said.

"If Armenia wants the borders to be opened, first it must solve
its problems with Azerbaijan," he told Trend News over the phone
from Ankara.

Several observers said Turkey has another chance to delay ratification
in the legislative body.

The parliament will not ratify the Armenia-Turkey protocols until
February-March 2010, Armenian Center for National and International
Studies Director Richard Giragosian said.

He added that this temporary gap is stipulated by the ninety-fifth
anniversary of the so-called "Armenian Genocide," the Armenia Today
Web site reported.

Giragosian said Ankara is at risk as Yerevan's patience is limited.

"The expectations from Turkey are quite high. But the signals
constantly coming from Brussels and Washington that Turkey must
fulfill its obligations in time are also important," he said.

Meanwhile, Akcakoca said the South Caucasus has a historic window
of opportunity and all interested parties must push for something
to happen on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, including the EU, which
tends to sit on the fence.

"The West must take a more principled position as it does with
other conflicts because sitting on the fence is of no benefit to the
resolution of this conflict," Akcakoca said.

"The longer the delay the more the momentum will erode. Both sides
need to be brave and do it. It is time to move to a future beyond
the past," Akcakoca said.