One year ago, Armenia and Turkey began a historic rapprochement and signed two protocols on normalizing their relations. Unfortunately, the process stalled in April. In an updated policy brief, Thomas de Waal argues that the protocols—the most positive initiative in the South Caucasus for many years—must be kept alive as the process still has the potential to transform the region. 

Key Conclusions:

  • Grass-roots initiatives are working. Although the rapprochement halted at the political level, there are encouraging grass-roots contacts between Armenians and Turks. These initiatives need to be better coordinated so that the beneficial effects spread throughout both societies
  • Engage Azerbaijan. The unresolved conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan over Nagorny Karabakh is the main reason why the normalization process stumbled. While the two processes are best kept separate, more effort needs to be expended in making the case to Azerbaijan that Armenia–Turkey rapprochement is in its best interests and that it will help—not hinder—the resolution of the Karabakh conflict.
  • Washington should look ahead to 2015. The United States can help bridge the Armenian-Turkish divide, but it is hobbled by the annual debate over the use of the word genocide to describe the fate of the Ottoman Armenians in 1915. President Obama should take a longer view and encourage Turks to take part in commemorating the centenary of the tragedy.

“If the process is to get back on track, all involved parties, including the United States, should set their sights on longer-term goals several years hence and ‘make haste slowly’ toward them,” de Waal writes. ”The centenary of the Armenian tragedy in 2015 is a good reference point by which to set the goal of full Armenian-Turkish normalization.”