WASHINGTON, Apr 9—The current crisis between Armenia and Turkey will likely reach a head by April 24, the date commemorated as Armenian Genocide Day. While there is virtually no hope that the 2009 Armenian–Turkish Protocols will be ratified soon, the parties should take small steps to rebuild confidence and affirm their faith in the process, concludes a new policy brief by Thomas de Waal.
If ratified, the Protocols would open the closed Armenia–Turkey border, promising Armenia long-term economic transformation and an end to its regional isolation. For Turkey, ratifying the Protocols gives it a new role in the Caucasus and is a major step toward ending the humiliation of foreign parliaments passing genocide resolutions condemning Turkey.
- Turkey, which has dragged its feet this year, needs to make goodwill gestures toward Armenia to keep the process alive. Steps could include opening the border for noncommercial travelers near the ancient city of Ani to allow Armenian tourists to visit the site inside Turkey.
- The Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict over Nagorny Karabakh remains the deepest problem facing the South Caucasus and, for the Turkish government, the major obstacle to ratifying the Protocols. Although Armenian–Turkish normalization is negatively affecting the Karabakh peace process in the short term, in the long run it has the potential to change the dynamics of the region and help the resolution of the Karabakh conflict.
- Negotiations over Nagorny Karabakh are stalled. Mediators should not push the parties too hard on status issues, but instead focus on other areas that will underpin a final agreement, such as Track II talks and economic development and reconstruction plans.
- The Azerbaijani exclave of Nakhichevan offers a “win-win” opportunity in the Nagorny Karabakh conflict. If Armenia agrees to open up communications with the enclave in tandem with the opening of the Armenia–Turkey border, all sides could claim success.
- On April 24, President Obama should move beyond the annual debate over the word genocide and look ahead to the centenary of the tragedy in 2015 by encouraging the Turks to take part in commemorating the occasion.
“The Turkey–Armenia process was the most positive initiative in the South Caucasus in years and still has the potential to transform the region. If the process is to get back on track, all involved parties, including the United States, should articulate a strategic vision for the region, and for resolution of the Karabakh conflict,” writes de Waal. “The centenary of the Armenian tragedy in 2015 is a good reference point by which to set the goal of Armenian–Turkish normalization.”
- Tom de Waal, a senior associate with the Russia and Eurasia Program at the Carnegie Endowment, is an acknowledged expert on the unresolved conflicts of the South Caucasus: Abkhazia, Nagorny Karabakh, and South Ossetia. From 2002 to 2009 he worked as an analyst and project manager on the conflicts in the South Caucasus for the London-based NGOs Conciliation Resources and the Institute for War and Peace Reporting. De Waal has worked extensively as a journalist and writer in the Caucasus and Black Sea region and in Russia.
- The Carnegie Russia and Eurasia Program has, since the end of the Cold War, led the field on Eurasian security, including strategic nuclear weapons and nonproliferation, development, economic and social issues, governance, and the rule of law.
- The Carnegie Moscow Center was established in 1993 and accommodates foreign and Russian researchers collaborating with Carnegie’s global network of scholars on a broad range of contemporary policy issues relevant to Russia—military, political, and economic.
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