27 June 2006

816) Turkey-Armenia Border Gates

Total length of Turkey-Armenia border, starting from border stone no. 4 and ending at border stone no. 148, is 325 km. There are 2 closed border gates on this line: “Alican Border Gate” on road and “Akyaka Border Gate” on rail. “Alican Border Gate” is located in Alican village of Iğdır province, a former district of Kars. “Akyaka Border Gate” is located in Akyaka district of Kars. Ancient name of Akyaka, which was previously a sub-district of Arpaçay, was Kızılçakçak. Therefore, former name of “Akyaka Border Gate” was “Kızılçakçak Border Gate”. This gate, 66 km from Kars, is locally known as “Doğu Kapı” (Eastern Gate) among Turkish people. And Armenians call it as “Ahuryan Gate”. Railway on the gate is accompanied a village byroad as well.

European Union (EU) regards the closed border gates as a barrier before integration of Armenia, covered in its “Wider Europe” policy, into EU. And Armenia, spending effort to increase pressure on Turkey, claims that the closed border gates cause financial constraints in its country. According to data of Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA), Turkish-Azerbaijani embargo on Armenia costs 570-720 million dollars annually to Armenian economy. If the gates are opened, transport costs of Armenia will be reduced by 30-50%, export will be doubled and its Gross National Product (GDP) will be increased by 30-38%. And according to World Bank data, if the gates are opened Armenia will achieve a transport saving of 6.4-8.4 million dollars, energy saving of 45 million dollars and export will be increased by 268.9 – 342.4 million dollars. As such, total benefit of opening of these border gates will be around 320-395.8 million dollars. Armenia alleges that opening of the gates will be a diplomatic stroke for Azerbaijan and that it will achieve a political success in Karabakh issue. On the other hand, Armenia will become a hub for transport between Turkey, Azerbaijan and Central Asia. Movement of goods via Black Sea ports, roads and railways of Turkey will ensure the integration of Armenia into Europe.

Following the war between Azerbaijan and Armenia until 1994, 40.000 people in Nagorno-Karabakh, invaded by Armenia, and 700.000 people from other 7 provinces was displaced. Consequently, 13% of Azerbaijani population had to be immigrants in their own countries due to Armenia, having occupied 20% of Azerbaijani territories. In this vein, Turkey closed its Armenian border gates in April, 1993 and its air space in 1994. However, it is not true to perceive the matter of opening the border gates between Turkey and Armenia just in the context of Nagorno-Karabakh issue. Armenia brings forward that opening of the gates will also be in interest of Turkey and also started a discussion by claiming that in certain periods after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Treaty of Gumru signed in 1920 and Treaty of Kars signed in 1921, which are defining the borders between Turkey and Armenia, were not into effect. However, Armenian Parliament, advocating Hai Tahd (The Armenian Cause) ideology, inserted in Article 11 of its Declaration of Independence, adopted in August 23rd, 1990, the statement of “Eastern Armenia” for Eastern Anatolia Region of Turkey. Furthermore, in the state emblem, described in Paragraph 2 of Article 13 of Armenian Constitution, Mount Ararat, a territory of Turkey, is depicted.

Unlike these approaches of Armenia, Turkey supported all initiatives in order for this country to be integrated into the world by being the first country to recognize Armenia in December 16th, 1991 – 2 days before recognition by the USA. Subsequent to recognizing Armenia, Turkey provided humanitarian aid for the country as well. It provided food (wheat etc.) and electricity. It allowed third countries to ship humanitarian aid items transiting its territories. Turkey invited Armenia to Black Sea Economic Cooperation (BSEC), founded in June 25th, 1992, as a founding member. And a permanent representative from Armenia (Arsen Avagyan) under the auspices of BSEC was allowed to be deployed in Istanbul. Turkey also granted permission for Armenian Airlines to schedule flights for Yerevan-Istanbul and Yerevan- Trabzon. In 1995, it opened H-50 air corridor for international air carriers flying to Armenia. Regular bus expeditions are carried out from Black Sea to Armenia by transiting Georgia. Armenia is allowed to use Trabzon port for export and import activities. Difficulties for entry to Turkey were eliminated through a visa regime at the border introduced in January 10th, 2002. Turkey connives at the fact that 30.000 Armenian citizens are unregistered workers in Turkey. Armenian citizens and institutions are furnished with the opportunity to take part in international sports and cultural events (Trabzon Theatre Festival etc.). Turkey is executing trade activities with Armenia on Georgia and Iran. Around 20 companies, established by Turkish and Armenian businessmen, operate in the market. According to unofficial data, it is estimated that foreign trade volume between two countries, which was 30 million dollars in 1997, has reached 200 million dollars.

Armenia’s integration of Armenia into the West and existence in a democratic world can only be possible by establishing good relations with Turkey, a country which is a part of Europe and governed by democracy. For that reason it is time for Armenia to respond positive steps taken by Turkey. Armenia, imposing military occupation on Azerbaijani territories for over 10 years, rejects most of resolutions and all of peace plans offered by United Nations, European Council and Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe. Therefore it is still in a de facto “state of war” with Azerbaijan and prolongs its status as “belligerent country”. Although the armistice is respected for years, there is nothing reasonable and convincing in holding Azerbaijan territories of much bigger than Karabakh under military occupation and making its people immigrants in their own country on the grounds of “security” by using Karabakh, subject of conflict, as an excuse. Some western countries desire the opening of the gates not because they favor Armenia but for the sake of attracting votes in their domestic policies. It is not realistic or rational for Armenia to demand handsome gestures from Turkey whilst it keeps using what is sorrowful for all the peoples in the region and existed a century ago against Turkey and Turkish people. Thus, the desired solution will be the reign of common sense and democracy in Armenia and cease of pressure imposed by fanatics on Armenian people.

01 June 2006 - ASAM


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