- The TRT Interview With Sedat Laciner
- Interview With Victor Nadein-Raevsky: Senior Research Fellow, Institute Of World Economy & International Relations, RF Academy Of Sciences
- Turkish PM Erdogan Spoke With Trend News: Exclusive Interview
- Interview With U.S. Ambassador To Armenia Marie Yovanovich
- President Serzh Sargsyan Interview
Protocols... But At What Cost? Ergun Kirlikovali
The TRT Interview With Sedat Laciner, the Director of International Strategic Research Organization, “Turkey Made The World Remember Karabakh Conflict” published in www.HistoryofTruth.com on 30 September 2009, concerning the protocols that will allegedly be signed on October 10 by Turkey and Armenia, is replete with perceptions and/or predictions that I find hard to accept or support . I decided to share with my readers my responses to that interview on a line-by-line basis.
TRT: Why Switzerland?
LACINER: First of all, it is hard to find countries that do not support Armenian allegations.
(EK: There are no countries in the entire continents of Asia or Africa which support Armenian allegations. There are only three countries in Latin America and only two in North America which support Armenian allegations (all because of the Armenian political pressure.) Out of 55 or so countries in Europe, small or large, only 15 support Armenian allegations(also because of the Armenian political intimidation.) In summary, out of some 204 countries which are members of the U.N., only about 20 countries support Armenian allegations—i.e. less than 10 percent. Therefore, to say “it is hard to find countries that do not support Armenian allegations” is incorrect, unfair, and if not based on ignorance or sloppiness, may be even considered malicious. )
LACINER: … Of course it would be better if it would be an objective country like England,
(EK: England? Objective? Really? England is the one party that is most responsible for the continuation of the genocide allegations today which are based on the Blue Book, wartime propaganda material compiled and edited by Toynbee and Bryce. The Turkish parliament in 2005 sent a joint letter/request to the House of Commons and Lords to take back the hearsay and forgeries contained in that book and apologize to Turkey for causing immeasurable suffering by deliberately spreading falsified information. England was at the heart of using Ottoman-Armenians against the Ottoman Empire before, during, and after the WWI. To call England objective would be to ignore history.)
LACINER: …but the mission of mediation is an important factor here. Switzerland was not very ambitious for mediation.
(EK: It is unacceptable, if not also embarrassing, to have to go to Switzerland, hat in hand, and asking for their mediation. Switzerland has passed a law banning questioning a certain characterization of a historic event without the court verdict supporting such ban. Thus, the Swiss have chosen to be a party to the conflict. Who are these Turkish negotiators who ignorantly brought Switzerland into this conflict, much less begged for their mediation? Don’t they have any idea what happened in 1920 in a small town called Sevres just a few kilometers from where they are? Did they forget about spirit of Lausanne 1923? )
LACINER: … On the other hand, it could be an advantage for Turkey that Switzerland previously gave support to the Armenian allegations.
(EK: How can Switzerland’s blatantly pro-Armenian beliefs and policies be an advantage? How can any logical and informed person believe such a naïve suggestion?)
LACINER: … Turkey can make itself understood better and same time it can strengthen its thesis.
(EK: Turkey needs Switzerland to be understood? Or strengthen its thesis? Is it not strong enough now? How can it be stronger by talking to the Swiss? )
TRT: What is the position of Azerbaijan?
LACINER: Turkey is already making all steps with Azerbaijan. Karabakh problem is as important as the issue of so called Armenian genocide for Turkey. Turkey already declared this and Prime Minister several times underlined that fact. In the process, if we count Switzerland, Azerbaijan is like a fourth party. Besides, Turkey and Azerbaijan constantly share information about the processes. Azerbaijan is being informed about developments, other than that Turkey took the approval of Azerbaijan about this issue. Azerbaijan is aware of Turkey’s good will and they trust Turkey.
(EK: Is that why Aliyev hastily went to Russia last May to promise Nabucco-earmarked gas to Russian gas pipeline as soon as news of Turkey-Armenia border opening hit the Turkish media? Because Azerbaijan trusts Turkey? )
LACINER: … The World was unaware of the occupation in Karabakh till now. The land that Armenia keeps under occupation is more than the land that Israel invaded. Turkey made the world realize the occupation in Nagorno-Karabakh.
TRT: What will be the gains of Turkey?
LACINER: Success of protocols is dependent on the process of resolution of Nagorno-Karabakh problem, and that is told to Obama, Russia and France. The next meeting towards resolution of Nagorno-Karabakh conflict will be in a much more serious mood.
(EK: We will see soon enough, won’t we? Too much is bet on too few “perceived” gains that are questionable and doubtful. )
LACINER: … First of all, this process (alone) is the gain of Turkey by itself.
(EK: Says who?)
LACINER: … In the opinion of international community, Turkey had an image like Turkey was smothering Armenia and not letting it develop. By this process Turkey proved that it is not aggressive.
(EK: Not a convincing argument. Even if it were true, does the dubious outcome justify the high cost?)
LACINER: … If protocols can be realized Turkey will gain many more advantages. A committee of historians is planned to be established. Such a committee may undermine the genocide allegations of Armenian Diaspora.
Although there are rumours about borders, recognition of borders clearly mentioned in protocols. Although Armenia does not recognize treaty of Kars now, they will be recognizing it through protocols. Dashnaks are very uncomfortable that ratifying protocols will mean that Armenia recognizes Turkey’s territorial integrity.
(EK: As you read these lines, Armenia’s constitution still refers to eastern Anatolia as Western Armenia. Armenia’s politicians and Diaspora make no secret of the fact that they want land and reparations fro Turkey. So, what exactly does it mean to say “recognition of borders clearly mentioned in protocols”? At the first opportunity, cannot Armenia easily say “Yes, Turks put that statement in the protocol, but we never agreed to it”? Then what?
LACINER: … What will be the gains of Turkey? We can count three of them. First is recognition of borders,
(EK: Let’s not count the eggs before the chickens lay them. We don’t even have chickens yet…)
LACINER: … second is about genocide allegations, and third is Nagorno-Karabakh problem. (EK: Protocol before resolution in Karabagh or resolution in Karabagh before protocol? That is the question. It should have been the latter. Now a resolution in Karabagh will be harder. Why would Armenia feel motivated to end its military occupation and allow Azeri refugees to return now that Armenia got what it wanted?)
LACINER: … Normalization of relations would be the fourth gaining for Turkey.
TRT: What kind of developments are expected to happen in Armenia and Caucasus?
LACINER: … Opening of borders will affect Russia.
(EK: After the Georgian war, Russia was trapped in Armenia. Turkey, through its ill-advised protocols with Armenia, not only saved Armenia but also Russia-in-Armenia.)
LACINER: … But the main problem might be the situation of Georgia. Since Armenia and Azerbaijan use Georgia as a route for transportation, the influence of Georgia will decrease. On the other hand, Azerbaijan will have another gate to World and it will be relaxing for Azerbaijan. But we should not be expecting results so soon. Moving in hurry may cause conflicts in Nagorno-Karabakh.
(EK: Diplomacy and international relations are a balancing act of interests, not unlike a trade. The Turkish term describes it bets: “alis-veris” taking-and-giving. What these protocols represent fro Turkey is “veris-veris”, giving-and-giving.)
What if we lose Azerbaijan’s friendship and support because of a murky dealing with Armenia? Who will fill the Baku-Tiflis-Ceyhan pipeline with oil?
Nothing would make me happier that to be proven wrong on all of the above. Frankly, though, I don’t hold out any hope that the upcoming developments will prove me wrong anytime soon…
I made it clear in many occasions before and I will repeat it here:
1- As long as Armenia continues its brutal military occupation of a neighboring country (Azerbaijan) and keeps at gunpoint a million Azeris away from their homes in blatant violation of international laws and many U.N. Security Council resolutions, there opening of the borders between Turkey and Armenia is not justified, proper, or fair.
2- And as long as Armenia continues waging nagging campaigns of defamation of another neighbor (Turkey) based on an always-alleged-never-court-proven genocide, coveting that neighbor’s lands, and failing to respect its sovereignty, diplomatic relations cannot be established in good conscience between Turkey and Armenia.
3- Armenian Diaspora can shout, scream, demonstrate, deceive, lie, attack, intimidate, and terrorize all they want. At the end of the day, though, it will be Armenia’s return to acting neighborly and peacefully which will determine Turkey-Armenia relations-- not to mention Armenia’s future, perhaps even survival.
Victor Nadein-Raevsky: Turkey’s Steps To Normalize Relations With Armenia Not Window-Dressing, 09/21/2009
Below is an Interview With Victor Nadein-Raevsky, Senior Research Fellow, Phd, The Institute Of World Economy And International Relations, Rf Academy Of Sciences.
Question: Mr. Raevsky, Armenia and Turkey have made a historic attempt of rapprochement, which is supposed to result in the normalization of bilateral relations. How sincere is Turkey in this process? How much is it interested in success?
Answer: Turkey is implementing a multi-pronged policy, which is not so transparent as they would like to show it. On the other hand, it is a multi-pronged blow. It is a blow on the traditional stereotypes of the Turkish state and society. It is a rather complicated process, which has to be “played back” from time to time because of Azerbaijan’s position and various approaches displayed by the Turkish Establishment. There is not a complete accord. However, the most important question is: what is the aim of the struggle? First of all, it is Europe — a desire to carve out a niche for negotiations and eventually be admitted to the European Union (EU). Turkey never pushes this priority to the background, which is most important.
In this context, Turkey has found most interesting fields for exerting pressure on Europe. They are making serious attempts to stir up Europe interest in the idea of “energy hub”, with Turkey to play this role, as well as in the possibility of alternative gas mains. Thus Turkey will fill a most important niche in European policy, with every prospect of leaving Ukraine behind.
With all this, Turks do not forget about themselves. A 15% share in the NABUCCO project is a link is official Ankara’s “priority chain”. Among them is Turkey’s intention to normalize its relations with Armenia, the problem of Cyprus, relations with Greeks, democratization, resolution of the Kurdish problem, as well as the task of political neutrality of the Armed Forces. This is a most serious and comprehensive program, and the Turkish leaders are gradually carrying it out. That is the reason why I do not think Turkey’s intention to normalize its relations with Armenia is window-dressing.
Question: What awaits Turkey if the Armenian-Turkish rapprochement fails?
Answer: A failure certainly implies a challenge to the aforementioned comprehensive program. The border will remain closed as well. Incidentally, the Armenian-Turkish border being closed affects Turkey as well.
Armenia’s territory might well be used for regional communication and laying of pipelines – relevant plans do exist. From this aspect, Turkey is hardly willing to remain hostage to Azerbaijan’s policy. True, despite being “allies and brothers,” Turkish politicians want to have a free hand. It shows! They do not say some things point-blank. Azerbaijan is trying to put obstacles, which is a serious impediment to Turkey.
Question: There is an opinion that the normalization of Armenian-Turkish relations and reopening of border will affect Russia’s positions in the region. How well is it grounded?
Answer: Russia’s fears are rather exaggerated. Armenia and Turkey will never be “on perfect terms.” Turkey will not admit the Armenian Genocide and seek “interim solutions.” The Opposition forces in both countries will not “vanish” either – they will constantly be underlying the fact of centuries-long confrontation.
Armenia, in turn, needs a strong backup. And it has no backup, but Russia. As regards the USA, you yourself know what can happen. The neighboring country (Georgia) had been building close relations with the USA, being full of hopes. We all saw the end. Washington cannot do what it wants to from overseas, whereas Turkey is near and will always pose immediate threat. So Armenia should maintain balance. Armenia is not going to pursue a simple policy. Even now the country is implementing a rather interesting and multi-aspect policy, and the Russian factor will always be of importance for the ruling elite in Armenia.
Question: What is your point of view on Iran’s position on the prospective reopening of the Armenian-Turkish border?
Answer: Iran has always had multi-pronged interests in any part of the world. Security issues are an important component of Iran’s interests. We all remember the time when the possibility of deploying Israeli air forces in Georgia was being considered. Of course, plans like that have never met Iran’s interests. Iran is obviously interested in developing its relations with Armenia. But it is not its decisive interest. At present, Iran is the only transit country south of Armenia. We can expect Armenia’s interest in developing ties with Iran to wane if the Armenian-Turkish border is reopened. Armenia may also change its position on Iran’s nuclear program, which is not of importance though – major powerhouses are the key players here.
Nevertheless, Iran is interested in having allies in the South Caucasus. The question is how it is going to “built up” its positions. I think Iran will continue its relations with Armenia. In its turn, Armenia will continue its multi-pronged policy. Moreover, it is becoming obvious. In this context, official Yerevan has numerous issues to settle. It is time for working up a balanced position.
Question: What, in your opinion, is the model Turkey will follow in trying to resolve the Kurdish problem?
Answer: Many models have been proposed. The Erdogan-headed Government proposes a rather high degree of cultural autonomy to Kurds. However, it is a debatable issue. In question is also the Kurds’ right to establish political parties – not formal ones considered to be terrorist or separatist organizations, but parties actually involved in political processes. One gets the feeling that some of the Kurdish political figures are ready for essential concessions on matters of principle.
News from Armenia - NEWS.am
Turkey will never betray Azerbaijan: Turkish PM, 28.09.2009
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan Spoke With Trend News In An Exclusive Interview.
The United States, Washington, Sept. 28 /Trend News, T.Bogdanova/
Trend News: According to the western media, Turkey is getting prepared to rebuild diplomatic ties and open borders with Armenia. There is an opinion that if this happens, an important for Baku factor in negotiations over Nagorno-Karabakh conflict will disappear. Does Turkey take this into consideration?
Recep Tayyip Erdogan: Azerbaijan's interests are always important for Turkey. We will never betray Azerbaijan. As a head of Turkish government I would like to speak particularly on one issue. In order to rebuild relations with Armenia we expressed our will. The normalization talks between Turkey and Armenia have entered a sensitive phase, the protocols guiding the establishment and development of relations between our countries will be sent to the Turkish Parliament next month for ratification.
We have reached an important stage with the step we have taken with Switzerland's mediation and I believe we can send the initialed document to Parliament if we do not face any prejudice and if steps are not taken by thinking just about the internal politics.
But especially I would like to explain that: Our efforts are not against our brother Azerbaijan. We will not agree on anything what is against the interest of Azerbaijan. We can approach the agreement but it definitely depends on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict settlement.
Q: According to the media, Turkey and Armenia will sign a landmark deal to establish diplomatic ties on October 10. Can you confirm that for us?
A: The foreign ministers will come together on October 10, or October 11 and sign the drafted document. Foreign ministers Ahmet Davutoglu and Eduard Nalbandian will ink two protocols, the texts of which had been agreed earlier and internationally hailed as a major breakthrough.
Q: You met on Friday with US President Barack Obama, on the sidelines of the G-20 summit in Pittsburgh. According to some reports Nagorno-Karabakh was discussed at this meeting. Can you give any more details on that meeting?
A: We discussed problems in the Middle East and Turkey, as well as relations among Turkey, Azerbaijan and Armenia, with Mr. Obama stressing the importance of improved our ties for the region as a whole. I think it would be easier if the OSCE's Minsk Group - tasked to find a solution to the dispute between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh - took more active measures. The time already has come. The United States as the co-chair of MG must follow its duties. This problem must be solved. I told Mr. Obama that if it is solved that it will turn on the green lights for regional cooperation, including our relationship with Armenia. There was need for dialogue that would bring together regional countries, referring to Turkey's proposal of a stability and cooperation platform in the Caucasus. Turkey aimed to make the region a basin of peace and wanted to solve Azerbaijan-Armenia, Turkey-Armenia and Russia-Georgia problems through this platform.
Q: Speaking of regional cooperation, what are your estimations about NABUCO project, in which Turkey is also participating?
A: We already past part of the way for this project. Recently we signed a contract with a number of European countries. As part of my trip to New York I also met with the president of Turkmenistan. To realize this project all the participants should show particularly efforts.
U.S. HAVE A LOT TO OFFER ARMENIA, Interview With The U.S. Ambassador To Armenia Marie Yovanovich
Ms Ambassador, presently the attention of the international community, including the United States, is focused on the process of normalization of the Turkish-Armenian relations. The United States welcomed the Turkish-Armenian protocols. However, there are concerns in Armenia about those protocols. I wonder if the United States which welcomes the protocols follows those concerns in Armenia and what does the U.S. think about them.
We are certainly aware of the very intense public debates, both here and in Turkey, about this issue. Since Turkey’s and Armenia’s border has been closed and there’ve never been diplomatic relations between Turkey and Armenia, this is a bold step forward. I think it is natural that critics look at this as carefully, as the governments of the two countries have. It’s the view of the United States that this is a positive thing, this is a positive move forward. And that when the border opens, when there is commerce between people, when there is cultural engagement between the two peoples, not only will Armenia’s economy grow, but Armenia’s security will be enhanced. But we do not underestimate how very difficult this is for both the government of Armenia and the government of Turkey to move forward, because this is a bold new step and there are going to be many critics of that.
What impact could a change in Armenia’s present policy on Armenian and Turkish relations have on U.S.-Armenia relations, if that change takes place.
It is highly hypothetical. If Armenia changes its position, it is just hard to know, since we don’t exactly know what the Armenian position would be. But as you know, we certainly support the process of normalization. And completely separate from that, the U.S. Government and the U.S. U.S. people have been good friends with the Republic of Armenia and the Armenian people since independence and actually even before, starting with the earthquake. And I would expect that to fully continue in the future.
Turkish-Armenian relations are viewed in a broader context of regional developments and are connected with the issue of Karabakh. Is progress regarding either of them possible independently from the other? In your opinion, could the improvement of Turkish-Armenian relations have a necessary or expected role in regional integration without the settlement of the Karabakh issue?
In terms of Nagorno-Karabakh, you said it is becoming increasingly important, I think it has always been important for Armenia and for Nagorno-Karabakh and Azerbaijan as well. And I know it has been for the Minsk Group co-chair countries because they put a lot of time and effort and energy into trying to help the parties find a peaceful resolution. We have just named a new Minsk Group Co-Chair, Ambassador Bob Bradtke, and I think that he and the other co-chairs are planning a trip to the region soon. And the U.S., as well as the other co-chair countries, will continue to try to help Armenia and Azerbaijan move forward in this important process. You asked whether progress is possible and I think the answer to that is evident, because we’ve seen progress in terms of the normalization process with Turkey and Armenia. My understanding is that the two countries have not been this close ever. And it’s the view of the U.S. Government that normalization of relations should take place without preconditions and within a reasonable timeframe. We think that is possible.
The West, and particularly the United States, seems to have put a full stop in another conflict, the Balkan conflict, by recognizing the independence of Kosovo. Isn’t it reasonable to use the same approach here to end the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict?
I think that every conflict is unique and needs to be looked at with all the circumstances surrounding it. This is the approach which the Co-Chairs have taken. And they’ve established three baseline principles that will guide in the eventual resolution to the conflict: those are the principles of territorial integrity, self-determination, and finally that there should be a peaceful resolution to the conflict.
There is an opinion in Armenia that the establishment of Turkish-Armenian relations will not foster social and economic development of the society, but rather a small group of individuals having large businesses will benefit.
Nobody knows exactly what’s going to happen when the border opens. But we’ve seen studies that show that the Armenian economy could grow anywhere from 1-3% over 10-15 years, that’s in addition to its regular growth. In the best case scenario, and maybe that won’t happen, the Armenian economy could grow up to 45% over 15 years. That’s a plus for everybody. In the worst case scenario, an additional 10% over 10 years will also be a positive thing. I think, with open borders, what you are going to get are more options for transportation, and so prices of transportation will drop and in turn prices of goods will drop, probably by about 25%. And I think you are going to see that there are a lot more opportunities for Armenians and Turks as well to do business with each other, and so suddenly you may find, for example, that there are opportunities to produce textiles here, working in conjunction with Turks. But I think that having open borders, opening Armenia to Europe, and allowing Armenia to more directly participate in what is a globalized world, is a positive. And it will benefit not only those at the top of the economic pyramid but also many others as well. I think it will also help the Armenian economy in another important way, because it will help encourage competitiveness in the Armenian economy, and that’s an important thing. I think there’ll be greater transparency and greater opportunity for Armenians who do business here as well as abroad. But I don’t want to say that there are only going to be roses, there will be some thorns as well. All transitions are difficult. Opening the border, there will be some bumps along the road. Some Armenian businesses probably will go out of business, the ones that are not competitive. But Armenians have been successful all over the world and I don’t see any reason why they wouldn’t be successful right here in Armenia.
The United States described the step of the Armenian government towards the normalization of the Armenian-Turkish relations as a bold step. The United States has mentioned a number of times the problem of good governance in Armenia, which is a benchmark for the Millennium Challenge Corporation program. In your opinion, does the Armenian government take bold steps towards fair government domestically?
This is a very important issue. I was just present at an award ceremony that the Freedom of Information Center hosted. You, as a journalist, are no doubt very interested in freedom of information. I think it’s one of the cornerstones of any democracy. If governments share information, I’m not saying every piece of information, because some things need to be classified, journalists can write about it, inform the society, and ordinary citizens can become involved. And that kind of participation by the citizens, I think, leads to better Government decisions. For example, if there is a poor village somewhere outside of Yerevan, and if a bureaucrat here in Yerevan decides that they need a new roof for their school, but you and I are living in that village and we know that what the most important thing is, is a new well. And if people are able to engage the Government in discussing what those decisions should be, at the end of the day I think those decisions are better. Freedom of information not only leads to greater participation by the citizenry, it leads to better decisions, better governance, it leads to greater accountability by the Government, and transparency, And I think those are all really important things. And today, at this award ceremony, a number of Government agencies, a journalist and NGO all received awards for helping to make information more available to the general public. And I think that an example of one of these steps forward by the Armenian Government, at the local level, is that of the village of Azatan, outside Gyumri, which received an award for publicly posting all of the information about their budget, city hall meetings, etc. And whether it’s at that level or whether it’s at the central government level, it’s a positive step toward better governance. And so, getting back to your original question, moving forward towards good governance, towards democracy is a process and it takes a lot of hard work, it takes time. But there are all sorts of positive steps that are happening now in Armenia and have happened over the last 18 years since independence that are moving Armenia forward in this process.
Ms Ambassador, in your opinion, what influence and importance does the level of good governance of separate countries have on the productivity in regional cooperation?
Let me give you an example of how good governance and principles of democracy can help regional integration. I think right now there is perhaps lot of disinformation in Azerbaijan about what’s happening now in Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh, and the same is probably true here. I think if there was more of an ability for people of both countries to travel back and forth, for journalists to report on what is happening, I think that that would create what I call an “enabling environment” for politicians, for leaders of countries to move forward. I also think that when you have a Government that enjoys the trust of the people, it’s a lot easier for them to move forward boldly, because the people trust the Government. And I think it’s important for governments to engage with the people regarding decisions that are being made. So I give the Government of Armenia and President Sargsian a lot of credit for launching a public debate about the big issue of the day, Turkey and Armenia, and trying to find out what people think about it.
Do the interests of the United States and Russia clash over the future of the Caucasus regarding the economic, political and security systems of the region? And if the interests contradict, is this conflict of interests evident in major issues or in small ones?
First of all, I would say that Russia and the United States have a lot of common goals in this part of the world and we work together very closely on some issues. For example, the issue of Nagorno-Karabakh. One of the Co-Chairs is the French Co-Chair, the other two are American and Russian, and we have worked together very collaboratively and quite constructively over the past number of years, and especially most recently. On Turkey-Armenia, the U.S. position is well known, and Russia has also been quite supportive of that process and recently released a very positive statement about the developments there. And I remember other areas where we collaborate quite closely and will continue to do so because we have common interests. We also have differences. The Russian-Georgian war in August of 2008 was perhaps one of the sharpest differences. But what’s positive is that we can discuss these differences, so when President Obama was in Moscow in August, that issue was discussed behind closed-doors, and it was also discussed more publicly, during the press conference. When President Obama came to office, he and Vice President Joseph Biden talked about the need to hit the reset button on U.S.-Russia relations. I think we’re in the process of doing it, and the Summit in July was one very positive step forward with our Presidents, the Russian President and the American President, agreeing to work together cooperatively on nuclear issues, on regional security issues, particularly Afghanistan, and also to establish a joint bilateral commission on the presidential level on other issues of mutual concern.
To come back to your original question, I always feel when people ask me that question that there is a subtext, that somehow there is a great rivalry between the two countries over the South Caucasus. And what I say to that is this; Russia and Armenia have had a long-standing relationship and will have a very long-standing relationship that is based on common history, a common language, many common elements of culture, education, the list goes on and on, not even to mention some pedestrian items like business. Armenia and Russia are strategic partners and the U.S. understands this. We also think, and it’s the stated policy of Armenia, that there is space for a positive relationship with the United States as well. We, perhaps immodestly, believe that we have a lot to offer Armenia, that there is a lot that we can share across a range of issues - on political issues, on economic cooperation and on Armenia’s security needs. And we think a partnership with Armenia offers us a lot as well. And one of the strongest foundations of our bilateral relationship are 1.5 million Armenians that live in the U.S. That’s a really strong point of commonality. And when our Deputy Secretary of State was here in July, it was one of the first things he mentioned, that he grew up in Boston, that many of his friends were Armenians, and he has a familiarity with Armenian culture as only somebody, who has been in- and-out of Armenian homes when he was growing up, can have. I think that the relationship between Armenia and the U.S. is strong. I think it is getting better. In fact, I read that president Sargsian was talking about the growing American relationship with Armenia at his address to the (Armenian) diplomats during the annual meeting at the beginning of September. It’s based on the many things that we have in common, and the many areas that we want to cooperate together in. It’s a relationship with Armenia; it’s not about our relationship with other countries. We don’t believe that it’s a zero-sum game; we believe that Armenia can have relationships with a number of different countries and prosper, and I think that’s exactly what’s happening. It is our hope that soon an additional country can be added to that list, Turkey. We think it’s good for Armenia, we think it’s good for Turkey, we think it's good for the region, and therefore it’s good for the U.S. Because countries that are prosperous, countries that are at peace with their neighbors, countries that are well-governed make better partners for the U.S. That is one of our basic principles.
Interview by Hakob Badalyan
All Countries That Not Yet Recognized Armenian Genocide Will Do So Sooner Or Later: Serzh Sargsyan, News from Armenia - NEWS.am, 2 October 2009
NEWS.am issues the full text of the RA President Serzh Sargsyan Interview With The “Armenian Reporter”:
Q: Mr. President, there appear to be parallels between President Barack Obama and you in your approaches to longstanding, unresolved challenges facing the United States and Armenia respectively. In President Obama's case, he is choosing to deal simultaneously with the fiscal and economic crisis he inherited, while winding down the Iraq war, escalating the Afghanistan war, seeking fundamental changes in government oversight of financial institutions, and calling for massive changes to America's healthcare system.
In your case, you are also dealing with the global financial crisis via massive borrowing, while simultaneously moving ahead with the Nagorno-Karabakh negotiations, and also taking on the equally complex subject of relations with Turkey. Both you and President Obama have been accused of taking on too much, too quickly. How do you respond to such criticism?
A: In serving as the leader of a country, you have your list of priorities, but you often have to address and resolve a host of issues that emerge independently of your will. Therein lies the challenge of leadership. The international economic crisis is, of course, one such issue. Addressing the consequences of the crisis has created similarities among leaders — whichever field they serve — political, economic, or public.
The crisis is having a significant effect on Armenia's economy, and we are trying to use credit to promote programs that will create new jobs and resolve the difficulties families face. For example, we are implementing a large construction project in northern Armenia, where the earthquake hit 20 years ago. Of course, it is better to be wealthy and healthy than poor and sick. However, we believe that any crisis offers new opportunities, and we must do all we can to implement the right reforms at this time.
Q: There is a great deal of concern in the Armenian-American community and throughout the diaspora about the agreement the Armenian government has negotiated with Turkey. You have met with leading political and media representatives in Armenia. You are now going to meet with leaders of Armenian communities in the diaspora. What message are you going to take to them?
A: My main message is not directed to the diaspora but the world at large. Everyone must understand that the diaspora is an important part of Armenia's reality. Armenia has about 7 million ambassadors in various countries, connecting Armenia with the rest of the world with invisible strings.
We, Armenia and the diaspora, are one family. I simply want to speak to our brothers and sisters in the diaspora, hear their views and — why not? — consult them. From the beginning, when we talked about public discussion of the two protocols, it was unequivocally clear to me that discussions in the Armenian diaspora would be part of it. The normalization of relations between Armenia and Turkey is only one part of the Armenian-Turkish reconciliation process, and there should be no misunderstandings or unspoken things in the Armenia-diaspora dialogue.
I must acknowledge, of course, that I am already familiar with the bulk of the ideas and views that are in circulation. They are not new, and have been part of the Armenian political debate for the last two decades.
Rewards and risks
Q: Based on your initial assessment and taking into account the views of a wide range of public opinion, what are the rewards and what are the risks of proceeding with ratification and implementation of the protocols between Armenia and Turkey? What can be done to mitigate the risks?
A: The current generation of the Armenian and Turkish peoples, each in its own way, has inherited a difficult history. To overcome the wide chasm of mistrust between our two peoples, our societies have difficult issues to resolve. Armenians have been subjected to genocide, lost part of their historic homeland, been dispersed around the world, and continue to struggle for the recognition and condemnation of that history by the international community and Turkey. Our people would see that recognition and condemnation as a long-awaited victory for justice.
Turks of the current generation, in turn, need to come to terms with their own history. After all, the Armenian Genocide and the Armenian question have been taboo subjects in Turkey for decades, and those who have raised them have been subject to prosecution and social stigma. Add to that the developments of the last two decades, where Turkey has unequivocally supported Azerbaijan and frozen the development of any relations with Armenia, blockading Armenia and thus seriously damaging the economy of our newly independent state.
It is in this general context that we are trying to normalize relations between the two states. Of course, in both societies, not everyone is ready to go the route of normalization, and that is natural. The difficulties are also understandable, and the potential obstacles are foreseeable. All the same, the most important guarantee, I think, is the honesty of the intention of the two sides to pursue this route, and the determination not to leave the resolution of these issues to future generations. I want to believe that the Turkish side is truly honest in this process, that artificial obstacles will not emerge on the road to signing and ratifying the protocols, and that the two sides share a belief in the indispensability of opening a new page in their relations.
The greatest risk is that the protocols will not be implemented. Such a development will deepen the atmosphere of mistrust and enmity in the region. For a long time after that, no politician will be able to touch the issue of normalizing Armenia-Turkey relations.
Armenia and Azerbaijan
Q: One of the key points about the protocols is that Turkey agrees to open the border with no mention of Karabakh. But Turkey's prime minister constantly repeats his promise that the border will not open as long as Armenians occupy what he calls Azerbaijani territory. How can the written agreement and the verbal statements be reconciled? The U.S. undersecretary of state this week said he hoped to see “tangible results” come out of the summit in Moldova. Is there any chance you will sign a document on Karabakh there or anytime before the end of the year?
A: Turkey, indeed, may have a problem reconciling these statements and its actual actions. I have said repeatedly: the normalization of Armenia-Turkey relations cannot be conditioned on the resolution of the Artsakh issue or on any other precondition. Any attempt to link the two processes endangers both of them. On one occasion I told the Turkish side: “The only way Turkey can help the resolution of the Karabakh conflict is by not interfering.”
It would be less than candid to claim that the two issues are completely unrelated. After all, the Turks and Azerbaijanis claim they are one people. On the relationship between the two issues, I would say the following: the resolution of one issue — the normalization of Armenia-Turkey relations and the end of the blockade of Armenia — can, of course, create favorable conditions for the resolution of the other — the resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. That is so because mutual trust in the region will increase, and that will create the positive atmosphere necessary for the resolution of the Karabakh conflict.
On the second part of your question: No, I do not expect to sign any document in Moldova. Let me go further: in view of the limited progress we have made on agreeing to very few of the Madrid Document, we are quite far from signing any document at this stage. It will require from both sides long negotiations and, of course, political will.
Q: The Armenian leadership's policy language in the past has stressed the “nonsubordination” of Karabakh to Azerbaijan. Armenian officials recently have spoken of Karabakh's “right to self-determination,” and we know that Azerbaijan says it would agree to “self-determination” within its borders. Is the nonsubordination of Karabakh to Azerbaijan still the policy of the Republic of Armenia?
A: The key issue in the resolution of the Karabakh conflict is the status of Nagorno-Karabakh. The Karabakh Movement began with the issue of status, and only the resolution of this issue can bring an end to the conflict. Armenia has said repeatedly that the people of Karabakh must have the opportunity to determine that status. That is the red line, beyond which the Armenian sides cannot go. It is not subject to negotiation.
The hypothetical subordination of Karabakh to Azerbaijan is possible only if the people of Karabakh, through a referendum, choose such a thing. Just how likely that is everyone knows, including the Azerbaijanis.
Q: When Iran tries to buy weapons systems the United States objects publicly and seeks sanctions against the supplier. Does Armenia quietly raise concerns about Azerbaijan's purchase of missile systems that can hit Yerevan and other Armenian towns? Is disarmament on the agenda of talks with Azerbaijan's leadership?
A: Azerbaijan's purchase of weapons systems and the arms race in the region are, of course, ongoing concerns for us. Azerbaijan continues to exceed the limitations of the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty in practically all categories. We have raised this issue repeatedly on various levels. Unfortunately, the international community is silent. Armenia raises the issue of Azerbaijan's arms purchases.
We believe countries that buy oil from Azerbaijan should think about this matter, because the sums they pay are spent in violation of one of the cornerstones of the European security.
Armenia meanwhile continues to raise its own level of preparedness, implementing military technology that corresponds to the contemporary threats we face; we have also increased our involvement in the Collective Security Treaty Organization and deepened cooperation with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
As far as the process of militarization of Azerbaijan is concerned in the context of the possible settlement of the Karabakh conflict, it goes without saying that there can be no change in current system of security guarantees without precise measures on limitation of certain types and dislocations of weapons around Karabagh.
The Armenian Genocide
Q: The Turkish government takes the position that the demand for international recognition of the Armenian Genocide comes from the Armenian diaspora, and is a priority for the Armenian diaspora, not shared by Armenia. That view is echoed by the International Crisis Group and other influential opinion formers. However, Armenia's National Security Strategy — developed while you were secretary of the National Security Council — specifically calls for the international recognition of the Armenian Genocide, and our reading of public opinion in Armenia is that this is a priority for the Armenian people. What is your view of the matter?
A: The process of international recognition of the Armenian Genocide cannot be removed from our agenda. Supporting the international recognition of the Genocide is part of our National Security Strategy. How can any Armenian renounce his or her past, or the desire to see the victory of justice? The recognition of the Genocide is not exclusively our issue, as Armenians. It is an issue for all humanity.
But I would like to point to one issue in this context: the overarching purpose of the process for the international recognition of the Armenian Genocide is to see the Turkish people and Turkey follow the lead of numerous civilized countries and recognize the fact of the Genocide. Never before has the issue of the Armenian Genocide been discussed as broadly in Turkey as it is discussed today. In the last decade, a segment of the people have begun to raise their voice, and their representatives are prepared to look at the dark pages of history with an alert and responsible gaze — notwithstanding decades of state propaganda. We must help that process along. The issue is not limited to Armenian-Turkish reconciliation; I repeat, there is the current generation of Turks, who must come to terms with their own history. I think our present initiative is opening doors for this internal discussion, this internal reconciliation.
Q: There is substantial concern in Armenia and throughout the diaspora about the sub-commission on the historical dimension outlined in the protocols. The concern is that the existence of a bilateral commission gives credence to the Turkish position that the answer to the question, “Was there a genocide?” is not yet known. What can you say to allay this concern and the fears of those who assert that the commission undermines ongoing international efforts to secure universal affirmation of the fact and ongoing consequences of the Armenian Genocide?
A: I would like to emphasize that this is not the historians' commission proposed years ago. This is a subcommission of an intergovernmental commission, which was suggested by the Armenian side in its response to that proposal. The purpose of the subcommission is to generate a dialogue on history, in order to increase mutual trust.
This is a long-term process, which encompass a broad range of issues: issues of the Armenian heritage in Turkey, issues of restoring and preserving that heritage, issues of the heirs of the victims of the Genocide. It is not possible to establish relations with a country without having dialogue about issues of mutual interest. And historical research should scare only those who falsify history. The agenda of the commission and its subcommissions will be set by the two sides, Armenia and Turkey. Those who are concerned should realize that the representatives of the government of Armenia will never allow issues to be formulated in a way that could be insulting to the Armenian people.
Perhaps in some countries and in some circumstances, the Armenian lobby will face certain difficulties, but it must also be understood that there are bound to be certain complications in such a difficult process.
I have repeated on various occasions that it is naïve to think that in countries like the United States, Great Britain, or Germany, the decision to affirm the Genocide can be predetermined by steps being taken, or evidence being presented, by other countries. These countries have enormous troves of evidence confirming the Armenian Genocide. It is a matter of making a political decision. Of course, the efforts of the Armenian lobby help bring about such a decision, but the political strength of that lobby alone is not enough. I am confident that all the countries that have not yet recognized the Armenian Genocide will do so sooner or later.
Our biggest advantage in this matter should be the great scholars who work on genocide issues, legal conclusions that have been reached, and the inclusion of the matter in the school texts of many countries.
Negotiating with Turkey
Q: Despite years of direct and indirect contact between Armenia and Turkey, your predecessors were unable to reach an agreement. An agreement has been reached under you. What do you think is the reason for that? Do you credit certain changes in the international situation? Is it because Turkey recognizes that its blockade of Armenia has failed and is now ready to pursue its own self-interest despite Azerbaijan's concerns? Has Armenia become more flexible in its negotiating position? Is it some combination of these factors?
A: I think, yes, it is a combination of the factors you listed.
The war in South Ossetia truly changed the atmosphere in our region. It showed that the use of force in response to struggles for national self-determination is not prudent.
There have also been changes in Turkey's perception. Of course, the idea of the blockade, that Armenia will come to its knees economically and will surrender to the Azerbaijani-Turkish tandem, did not work out in reality. Whether Armenia is blockaded or not, it will not accept a resolution of the Karabakh conflict that would endanger the existence of the people of Nagorno-Karabakh.
As for whether we are more concession-prone, I will say that our position remains unchanged: the establishment of relations and the end of the blockade are necessary to both sides, and Armenia needs not concede anything to move in that direction. The very fact that we are ready to cooperate with Turkey even before it recognizes the Genocide is incontrovertible evidence of our constructive approach.
Q: In talking about Armenia, Turkey has consistently raised three concerns: the borders, the campaign for universal affirmation of the Armenian Genocide, and Karabakh. What are Armenia's concerns? Beyond the lack of diplomatic relations and the closed overland border, what other Turkish policies vis-à-vis Armenian interests do you find most problematic and want to see changed?
A: What you call “concerns” Turkey has for years treated as preconditions. We did not put forward any preconditions, but that did not mean we did not or do not have concerns. They are numerous. You noted two of them already: the absence of diplomatic relations and the blockade of Armenia.
Let me list a few more:
* The denial of the Armenian Genocide by Turkey, which for Armenians means the continued absence of historical justice and a lack of security.
* The unconstrained support of Azerbaijan by Turkey, including military support, which does not help the strengthening of trust in the region.
* The tragic state of Armenian monuments and generally of the Armenian heritage in Turkey.
And a series of other concerns that perhaps have not been raised formally, but exist and surely have been considered in making our decision to pursue normalization.
Consequences of an open border
Q: Please comment on the economic benefits for Armenia if Turkey opens the last closed border in Europe. How do you envision Armenia competing in this competitive regional environment?
A: Much has been said about the economic consequences of opening of the border. Of course the opening of the border creates some competition, which I think is entirely healthy competition for our economy. Concerns about competition were also raised in the first years of our independence with regard to Iranian goods. Time showed that the concerns were overstated. I think this is a complex that small countries with large neighbors suffer from.
After all, a potential market with a population of 70 million opens before our producers. I don't even doubt that our entrepreneurs will succeed in that competition. Let me go further: I have not heard from any serious businessperson in Armenia that he has doubts of the economic benefit of opening the border.
As for the protection of local producers and especially small businesses, that must be a matter for the government's attention. Many of them have difficulty competing even within our domestic market. In a market economy, the government has leverage through anti-dumping and anti-monopoly laws, and the like, to protect local producers and small and medium businesses. It is a matter of doing the work and doing it right.
Anyway, I have the fewest concerns on this matter.
AR: Thank you, Mr. President.