Armenia-Turkey normalisation prospects best in decades

The probability of normalising ties between Turkey and Armenia may be at the highest in decades because Azerbaijan is not obstructing a rapprochement, as it did during previous efforts in 2009, said analysts and officials from around the region, the Eurasianet news website reported on Monday. 

The political calculations of the three governments have transformed since last year’s war over the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh from which Azerbaijan emerged victorious, Eurasianet said.

Azerbaijan no longer seems to be playing a spoiler role, though questions remain about whether Russia may do so instead, the news website said.

Turkey and Armenia have made positive statements about restoring their bilateral relations, which have been frozen for nearly three decades.

“Azerbaijan opposed the normalisation between Armenia and Turkey in 2009 on the argument that Turkey had closed the borders after the occupation of Kelbajar (Nagorno-Karabakh) in 1993,” Ankara-based political analyst Hasan Selim Özertem told Eurasianet. “Baku saw Turkey’s opening of the borders as a betrayal and harshly criticised it. Now, after the truce, this issue is off the table and it won’t be a surprise to see a milder tone from Azerbaijan than in 2009.”

At the end of last month, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said Yerevan would evaluate Turkey’s diplomatic gestures for the establishment of peace in the region and respond to positive signals. Turkey can work toward gradually normalising ties because Armenia has stated its readiness, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said in response.

Diplomatic relations between Turkey and Armenia have been suspended for 28 years due to Armenia’s extended military standoff with Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh in which Ankara sided with Baku. Two bilateral protocols were signed between Turkey and Armenia in Zurich in 2009 aimed at normalising ties. They were never ratified by either of the country’s parliaments.

Armenia has handed back territories in Nagorno-Karabakh to Azerbaijan as part of a Russia-brokered ceasefire signed by the two sides.

Azerbaijan, backed by Turkey, began a successful military offensive against Armenian forces in Nagorno-Karabakh in September. The conflict ended in November with the truce.

“Turkey paid its dues to Azerbaijan,” one high-ranking Armenian government official told Eurasianet, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“Azerbaijan could block the talks again and Armenia is ready for that scenario. But Azerbaijan shouldn’t underestimate Turkey’s long-term influence there,” the official said. That influence includes Azerbaijan’s reliance on Turkish weaponry and pro-Turkey political elements in the country.

 

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