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ANKARA: Armenian Tragedy, But Who Is Responsible?

Journal of Turkish Weekly, Turkey
Jan 1 2005

Armenian Tragedy, But Who Is Responsible? 
View: Jan SOYKOK (JTW), 2 December 2005

Newly independent Republic of Armenia is a landlocked country.
Armenia is surrounded by 100 million Turkish (Azerbaijan, Turkey and
Iranian Azerbaijan) and Georgia. It has no significant natural
resources and fertile territories. Its population relatively low,
about 3 million and the immigration to Russia, Europe and North
America has dramatically continued. Armenian economy has been
depended on aids from the US and Armenian diaspora. Armenian workers'
financial transfers also have a significant contribution to the
economy. In short, Armenia, had to develop good relations with its
neighbors in order to end its isolation. However the Armenian
Governments has chosen an awkward way:

Unlike the other former USSR republics, Armenia forged its links with
the Russian Federation. Georgia and Azerbaijan for instance made
efforts to lessen their dependency to Russia. Both states have tried
to balance Russia with the European Union, the United State and
Turkey. Armenia, on the other hand, has been skeptical in developing
relations with these three `alternatives'. Even, opponents to
relations with Russia were considered as traitors by main stream
political parties.

Secondly, young Armenia involved the ethnic conflicts and Armenian
forces occupied neighboring Azerbaijan territories. Apart from the
Nagorno-Karabakh territories, many Azerbaijani towns have been under
Armenian occupation.

Third, Armenia with its Constitution and Declaration of Independence,
has not recognized neighboring Turkey's borders. Many Armenian
politicians, even today, call Turkey's Eastern region as `Western

Moreover, Armenia has encouraged separatist movements among the
Georgia Armenians and Russia Armenians. Apart from this, Armenia's
close relations with Russia have been considered as a direct threat
by Georgia. Georgia, in return, has forged its relations with the
West (EU and US), Azerbaijan and Turkey.

In addition, Armenian politicians have made the so-called `genocide'
allegations foremost priority of Armenian Foreign Policy. Armenian
politicians argued that Turkey has to recognize 1915 events as
`Armenian genocide'. Otherwise good neighborhood was not possible for
the Armenian side. The Armenian diaspora in particular has
manipulated Armenia's Turkey policy. Extreme Armenian diaspora
institutions have even opposed commercial relations with Turkey.

`Armenia Island'

As a result of all these Armenia's isolation has deepened: As Sachs
from NYT points it out `Citing terrorism concerns, Russia abruptly
sealed its border with Georgia in September and kept it closed for
nearly two months, effectively cutting off the road that was the main
transit route for Armenian trade with Russia.' Turkey after the
Armenian forces' occupation of Azerbaijani territories closed its
borders with Armenia except the air transportation. Turkish Prime
Minister Tayyip Erdogan says they could not take any step before the
Armenians take a step in occupation of Azerbaijani territories.
Naturally, Armenian borders and almost all relations with Azerbaijan
were ceased. Not only the borders with Georgia, Turkey and Azerbaijan
but also Iranian border is also problematic. Armenia's only direct
outlet, apart from the Georgian way, is through Iran to the south,
where trade has been hampered by a poor road network and lack of rail
Iran is in the United States' `enemy list' and Iran, with Russian
Federation, has been considered as one of the obstacles for the
Western policies in the Caucasus. So, developing closer relations
with Iran would be risky for Armenia.

Azerbaijan and Georgia has celebrated the completion of a large
section of the pipeline to carry Caspian Sea oil to the Turkish port
of Ceyhan. The $3 billion regional energy project bypasses Armenia
entirely. The pipeline project will integrate Azerbaijan and Georgia
with West and relations between Turkey, Azerbaijan and Georgia are
being forged changing regional balance of power against Republic of
Armenia. Turkey, considered as historical enemy in Armenia, will also
start membership negotiations with the EU. It is estimated that
Turkey will be a EU member in 10 years. According to Armenian Foreign
Minister Oskanyan European leaders ignored what he called Turkey's
"faults and shortcomings" with regard to Armenia. "What is
regrettable," he said, "is that Europe is closing its eyes on
Turkey's petulance." For Armenia Turkey has no right to close its
territorial borders with Armenia. `Turkey has to establish diplomatic
relations with all European states, including Armenia says one of the
Armenian officials. However Armenian forces still occupies almost 20
percent of Azerbaijani territories and Armenia does not recognize the
written international agreements set Turkey-Armenia borders.

Dr. Sedat Laciner from ISRO says `Armenia must question its relations
with the world and the region. While all neighboring countries takes
great steps in integration with the West and the global order,
Armenia's dependency to Russia has dramatically increased. Nothing is
bad with having good relations with Russia. However if you claim you
are an independent state you should balance your relations. A
nation-state cannot establish its security and foreign relations on
trusts and promises.' According to Dr. Laciner extreme Armenian
diaspora manipulate and misdirect newly independent Armenian State:

`Armenia has no enough human sources to survive. Migration to Russia,
Europe and Northern America has badly damaged national economy.
Hundred thousands work abroad. About 40,000 Armenians work illegally
in Turkey, for instance. However the Armenian nationalists are
talking about a Greater Armenia from Black Sea to Mediterranean, from
Mediterranean to Caspian Sea. Armenia suffers from corruption and
economic catastrophes. However Armenian politicians are talking about
events happened almost a century ago. They politically attack Turkey.
The EU project has been the greatest Turkish dream and Armenian
politicians they have made enormous efforts to prevent Turkey's EU
membership. Turkish public was shocked by Armenian anti-Turkish
campaigns. Armenian politicians do not understand that Turkey is
ready to normalize its relations with Armenia. AK Party, in
particular, is very willing to develop good relations with Armenia.
However if you insist on armed occupation and if you do not recognize
Turkey's national borders, and if you continue to undermine Turkey's
relations with the EU, you cannot expect any step from Turkey' added
Dr. Laciner.

Turkish Embargo?

Armenian politicians accuse Turkey for Armenia's economic failures.
Turkish-Armenian territorial border is closed. However there are
direct weekly flights between Yerevan and Istanbul. There is no
diplomatic relations between two states, however thousands of
Armenians work in Istanbul and other Turkish cities. Turkish goods
make their way to Armenia. According to New York Times, Turkey is
Armenia's seventh largest trading partner. Dr. Nilgun Gulcan from
ISRO claims Turkey is its fifth largest partner. But the closed
border adds cost of road transit through third countries like Georgia
or by the planes that operate flights between Yerevan and Istanbul to
Turkey-Armenia trade. Georgia roads are not safe enough and mostly
closed due to the ethnic tension. Turkey says it will not open its
border before withdrawal of Armenian forces from occupied

Armenian Foreign Minister on the other hand told NYT that they will
not give up the captured territories: "We won't trade off Karabakh
for a railroad. We have learned to cope with the isolation. Things
are evolving around us. Let it be." In short, Armenian politicians
seem happy with the status quo.

Armenian forces still occupy 20 per cent of Azerbaijani territories.
Armenia does not recognize its main neighbor's national borders.
Armenian politicians organize anti-Turkey campaigns in European Union
and the United States. And, Armenia ironically cannot understand why
Turkey does not open its borders with Armenia. Nearly half of the
country's 3 million people live in poverty on less than $2 a day, but
Armenia's Foreign Minister could say `we have learned to cope with
the isolation'. As Dr. Gulcan says, `Armenian politicians have chosen
isolation. They curtail the real problems with the past. They
sacrifice today for the legacies and imagined enemies. They should
not learn to cope with isolation, but to cope with their

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