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 Armenia'. 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 lines. 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 territories. 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 politicians.'