Turkey’s policy of isolation and blackmail against Armenia an obstacle for peace in the South Caucasus

Chairman of the Political Science Association of Armenia Dr. Hayk Kotanjyan presented a report on “Regional Security Dynamics in the South Caucasus” within the framework of the Harvard Black Sea Security Program Workshop held in Bucharest on March, 2013. The full text of the report is provided below:

“Dear Chairman,
Dear Colleagues,

I would like to express my gratitude for organizing this 11th Harvard Black Sea Security Program Regional Workshop in the format of Alumni Reunion which brings together distinguished experts on regional security dynamics to share ideas and discuss possible developments in the Greater Black Sea Area. In my presentation of personal capacity, I’m going mainly to deal with some aspects of regional security dynamics in the South Caucasus; such as perspectives of the Karabakh conflict resolution and current situation in the Armenian – Turkish relations.

First of all, it should be mentioned that the large-scale changes gaining an intense circulation in the geopolitical system of the Greater Middle East provide new problems for the security of the South Caucasus fraught with dangerous aggravation of existing intra-regional threats.

The unfolding “Arab Spring” with unpredictable developments in Syria and the neighboring countries, the growing role of Turkey in the Middle East with shift in its foreign policy from the traditional Western-oriented approach to the “Neo Ottomanism” vision with a broader emphasis on Turkey’s relations with the Muslim world, the complexity of development prospects of the security dynamics in Central Asia in connection with the scheduled withdrawal of the Coalition troops from Afghanistan at the end of 2014, as well as the ongoing system crisis in the geostrategic space of the European Union – all these are the factors affecting the dynamics of security environment’s changes in the South Caucasus.

The dynamics of Armenia’s, Georgia’s and Azerbaijan’s involvement in the international security system in both bilateral and multilateral dimensions plays a unique role in maintaining the security in the South Caucasus. Here as a positive factor it should be mentioned that in comparison with its neighbors Armenia is more effective in maintaining the balanced diversity of its security orientations and the development of security cooperation with NATO and the CSTO, Russia and the US, as well as with other world power centers like the EU actively influencing the region.

Armenia’s partnership with NATO within the framework of cooperative security goes back to 2002, when the country joined the PfP Planning and Review Process (PARP) and then the Individual Partnership Action Plan (IPAP), thereby getting the opportunity to make its own contribution to multinational training, exercises and operations, as well as to international security in general – under the auspices of the Alliance. Since 2004 Armenia has been engaged in the NATO-led peacekeeping Kosovo Force (KFOR) that furthered the relations between the parties. Armenia’s peacekeepers participated in the US-led Coalition in Iraq in 2005 – 2008. Since 2009 Armenia has been contributing peacekeeping contingent to the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan.

Armenia appears to be in a unique position combining the knowledge and experience gained both from the NATO-led peacekeeping operations and the CSTO drills within the framework of the Collective Rapid Reaction Forces and has a solid willingness to become a bridge for sharing experience with the members of the two respected partner organizations. For instance, the developments in Afghanistan and particularly NATO’s decision to terminate its combat operations in that country by 2014 emphasize the importance of consultations on the NATO-CSTO cooperation in post-2014 Afghanistan – after the withdrawal of the NATO Coalition Forces. Both NATO and the CSTO are interested in neutralizing the possible threats coming from Afghanistan and in this context the Armenian experience can serve as a good basis for fertilizing the ground to launch the NATO-CSTO cooperation mechanisms.

It should be emphasized that the main threat to the peace and security in the South Caucasus has been and remains the possible resumption of the war by Azerbaijan against Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh. Thus, the peaceful and just resolution of the Karabakh armed conflict is of crucial importance for the security and stability of our vulnerable region. The peaceful civil movement for the protection of the Artsakh Armenians’ rights in the process of Perestroika and Glasnost became a challenge to the inertia of the Stalinist value system not recognizing the priority of individual and collective human rights, ignoring the aspirations of ethnic minorities which were arbitrarily driven by the will of the “father of peoples” to the mini-empires of the Soviet Azerbaijan type.

The Armenians responded to the pogroms organized by the Azerbaijani authorities in Sumgait, Kirovabad and Baku with a law-governed referendum in Artsakh that recorded the adamant will of its people to freedom. In the political-legal sense, the Nagorno-KarabakhRepublic is established as a result of the referendum on the basis of the USSR Law of the Perestroika period “On Procedures for Regulation of Issues Related to Separation from USSRRepublics” during its effectiveness – before signing the Alma-Ata Declaration on the official dissolution of the Soviet Union.

Another distinctive feature of the Karabakh referendum is that the Azeri minority in compliance with the aforementioned USSR Law was involved in the preparation of the referendum, although consequently boycotted it on the orders of the Baku authorities. This is evidenced by the saved documents of the Referendum Commission. World practice shows that in this way – without intervention of the metropolis – the right of peoples to self-determination of Bangladesh, Eritrea, East Timor, Montenegro, and just two years ago in the South Sudan were implemented through the expression of free will at referendums exactly among the self-determining peoples, and not the population in their former metropolises represented by Pakistan, Ethiopia, Indonesia or Yugoslavia – Serbia and Sudan.

Since the armistice was signed in 1994 by the Azerbaijani, Armenian and Nagorno Karabakh parties to the armed conflict, both Armenia and the NagornoKarabakhRepublic have supported the peace process under the auspices of the OSCE Minsk Group. Armenia’s and the Nagorno Karabakh Republic’s efforts aimed to foster confidence building, as mutual trust is the key for long term peace and stability among Armenia, NKR and Azerbaijan. Meanwhile, the Azerbaijani leadership actions are destroying any base of confidence building. As a symptomatic example of such activities we can mention a case of rude falsification of the history of the Eastern Transcaucasia with the efforts of political “balancing” the genocidal crimes against the Armenian population in the early 20th century with the non-existent “genocide against the Azerbaijanis”. In 1998 the Decree of the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan “On the genocide against the Azerbaijanis” was issued on the basis of these falsifications.

The Azerbaijani authorities are implementing generously financed campaign of falsifying authorship of mockery of the corpses of victims of the Khojaly tragedy. The details of this provocation as a tool of political struggle for power in Baku were freshly stated in the famous interview of the then Azerbaijani President Ayaz Mutalibov to the Czech journalist Dana Mazalova. The Armenian side has all the evidence that the corpses were in the vicinity of the city of Agdam, which then was in the area of ​​responsibility of the Azerbaijani authorities, under the control of their military forces, and the physical contact of the Armenians with the dead bodies in order to mutilate them was not possible.

The policy of fomenting the anti-Armenian sentiment currently is not limited only to fooling the Azerbaijani people, but also is exported to the international community. The denunciation of the “Ghuba” impulse of xenophobia against the Armenians with the attempts of manipulatively involving the Jewish Diaspora in negative anti-Armenian sentiments, nurtured by the Head of the neighboring state is symptomatic. It is his decree on the establishment of the genocide memorial complex that actually canonized the untested version of the perpetrators of the mass death of people buried in the excavated graves in North Azerbaijan and their national and religious affiliation. The colleagues from Israel and the Jewish Diaspora are resentful that the Head of Azerbaijan includes in the state protocol the visits of the Jewish organizations leaders to the memorial built allegedly on the remains of the Jews killed by the Armenians, but in fact – on the graves of the Armenians killed in expeditionary raid into the North Azerbaijan in 1918 by the Caucasian Islamic army led by Turkish General Khalil Pasha and Caucasian Tartar gangs.

Another vivid example of Azerbaijani leadership deliberate policy toward preventing any possibility of confidence building process between Armenia, the Nagorno Karabakh Republic and Azerbaijan is the persecution orgy with public mass burning of books of Azerbaijani eminent writer Akram Aylisli. In his novel Aylisli dared to truthfully describe along with the peace and good neighborliness of the Armenians and Caucasian Tartars in Nakhichevani city of Agulis also the cruelty of Turkish and Caucasian Tartars against the Armenian population of Nakhichevan and Baku. The official and committed-to-authorities public circles reacted with repressions and treachery accusations as per the worst traditions of Nazi Germany. The parallels between the fires of the books by Heine, Mann, Freud, and Remarque burned by the Nazis of Hitler’s Germany and the publications of the people’s writer and honored artist of Azerbaijan are obvious.

The symptoms of hyper-chauvinism of the Aliyev regime is also expressed in the glorification of Ramil Safarov – a cowardly murderer of the sleeping colleague – an Armenian officer at the NATO international training program. This provocation by the Azerbaijani authorities aimed at undermining the participation of the three permanent members of the UN Security Council – Russia, the US and France – in the format of the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs in the peaceful resolution of the Karabakh conflict – has been condemned by the authorities of all the three Co-Chair countries.

We believe that the only realistic way which can lead to a lasting peace between Armenia, the NagornoKarabakhRepublic and Azerbaijan passes through the recognition of the legitimacy of 1991 referendum and independence of the Nagorno-KarabakhRepublic by Azerbaijan. The participants of the confidential negotiations based on the results of the Karabakh war of 1992-1994 witnessed that the former President of Azerbaijan Heydar Aliyev with his Armenian counterparts was also inclined to the possibility of such an effective resolution of the conflict.

The preparation of the Azerbaijani, Armenian and Nagorno-Karabakh populations for the recognition of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, as well as for parallel negotiations among the Republic of Azerbaijan, the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic and the Republic of Armenia on the status of some territories of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic’s security zone – to guarantee the security of the population and sustainable development of all the three independent states – could be a factor in the establishment of lasting peace and security in the South Caucasus and its integration into the international community.

Another obstacle on the road toward peace and stability in the South Caucasus is the Turkey’s policy of isolation and blackmail against Armenia. As we know, heavily influenced by Azerbaijan the Turkish leadership has rejected the ratification of the Armenian-Turkish protocols signed in 2009 with mediation efforts of Switzerland and support of the US, Russia, France and the EU. Being involved in struggle with the Turkey’s “DeepState”, current Turkish leadership in its relations with Azerbaijan ironically backs the ideological notion of “one people, two states” which was jointly elaborated by the former leaders of Azerbaijan and their partners from Turkey’s “DeepState”. Turkey continues to put preconditions on Armenia demanding unilateral concessions in the Karabakh negotiations as well as stepping up its state policy of denial concerning the fact of the Armenian Genocide committed in the Ottoman Empire.

As it is well known, Armenia strongly believes that the productive way ahead in the Armenian – Turkish relations is the ratification of the Armenian-Turkish protocols without preconditions and establishment of diplomatic relations between two states with simultaneous opening of the Turkish – Armenian border, as it was signed under the auspices of the three permanent members of the UN Security Council – France, Russia and the United States. Meanwhile, as the Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan has recently emphasized, Armenia cannot and will not wait indefinitely for the ratification and will consider the recall of its signature from protocols within the reasonable time frame. In my personal view, normalization of the Armenian – Turkish relations on the basis of 2009 Protocols could foster significantly the security and stability in the South Caucasus and the surrounding Greater Black Sea Region.

I would like also to touch upon the perspectives of Georgia’s domestic and foreign policy in the light of recent political developments in Georgia. It’s worthy of mention that after October 2012 well-done democratic Parliamentary Elections we are witnessing the ongoing consultations and sometimes tensions between the President Saakahsvili’s team and the Prime Minister Ivanishvili’s coalition. One thing is obvious: till now the level of uncertainty is too high for making any valid forecasts either on Georgia’s domestic or foreign policy mid- and long-term developments. At the same time, we expect that normalization of the Georgian – Russian relations in parallel with keeping the advanced Georgia-West strategic partnership in balanced harmony may play a significant role in furthering mid- and long-term regional stability.

In the meantime, taking into account the constitutional amendments which are set to come into force in October 2013, the center of political power will be gradually shifted from the Government and the President’s Office to the Georgian parliament and, in my viewpoint, our expert community should pay more attention to the developments within the Georgian National Assembly where the Prime Minister’s coalition holds a majority.

At the end of my presentation I would like to highlight the importance of the Harvard Black Sea Security Program role which since its inception in 1997 has been playing a key role in fostering the frank and academic discussions at expert and political level on several issues concerning the Greater Black Sea Region. These workshops present an important opportunity for expert community and policymakers to share views on regional security dynamics and to come up with new ideas which may be useful in overcoming the complicated set of challenges facing our region through its sustainable development. I would also like to express my gratitude to the Romanian side for hospitality and creating all conditions necessary for organization of this workshop.

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