Normalization with Armenia is difficult

Will the "normalization process" for Turkey-Armenia relations be able to recover from the "deadlock" that it is in? For the past couple of weeks, the Turkish Foreign Ministry has been searching for a "way out" through an "exchange of letters" and "shuttle diplomacy." But looking at the announcement made in Yerevan, it seems that these efforts have not been successful.

If the decision by Armenia to stop the approval process of the protocols is not a move to influence President Barack Obama's April 24 speech, then that means the process is in serious trouble.

Earlier this month, Turkish Foreign Ministry Undersecretary Feridun Sinirlioğlu traveled to Yerevan and Baku to find a path that all sides could agree on.

Sinirlioğlu's meetings in Yerevan and Baku provided "new data" for the Recep Tayyip Erdoğan-Serzh Sarksyan and Obama-Erdoğan meetings held in Washington a few days later.

Armenia has been occupying 20 percent of Azerbaijan's territory for close to 20 years. In order for the signed protocols to be implemented, Armenia must give concrete signals that it will end its occupation in regions surrounding Karabakh. The border between Turkey and Armenia was closed following the occupation of territory surrounding Karabakh in 1993.

Expecting the borders to be opened without solving the problem that was the reason for closing the border is a pipe dream.

It's not possible to establish "good neighborly relations" with an Armenia that is ambivalent even about recognizing Turkey's territorial integrity, tries to put pressure on Turkey over the genocide allegations and insists on occupying the lands of its neighbor.

In order to pursue the "normalization process," Armenia will first need to become a "normal country."

Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu's trip to Baku to meet with Azerbaijani President İlham Aliyev in the aftermath of these senior level meetings in Washington was important. While we don't know the outcome of this meeting, the "missing link" in meetings that have been taking place between capitals in recent weeks is Moscow.

If the "normalization" process with Armenia is at a standstill, it's because enough attention has not been given to the Russian factor. As long as Russia opposes "foreign formulas for the region" and rejects the idea of "putting pressure on the sides," nothing will change in the Caucasus. The quotes belong to Russia's ambassador to Turkey, Vladimir Ivanovskiy. It seems that while Russia supports the normalization of relations between Armenia and Turkey, it does not want relations with Azerbaijan to be improved.

Perhaps Ankara's "persuasive skills" are not good enough for Moscow. In this case, Americans will have to intervene. But one might ask, "Which Americans?" As a senior level Turkish diplomat said, an American administration that rocked the boat in the critical process in the Caucasus by not lifting even a finger on the genocide bill?

We would hope that they have learned a lesson from this "grave mistake."

There are two tasks in the American administration's South Caucasus file:

The first is to compensate for their lack of vision on the "genocide bill" with the speech Obama will deliver on April 24, and the second is to "encourage" Moscow to prompt Armenians to take action.

The American administration must have some cards that will convince the Russians to want peace in Karabakh.

If it doesn't, then peace in the Caucasus will also be a "pipe dream." If that is the case, then as the Azerbaijanis say, "Let us not fool each other."

24 April 2010, Saturday