TABDC co-chairman Kaan Soyak:” Conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia cannot be resolved by keeping the borderlines close”
Co-chairman of Council for Development of Turkey-Armenia Economical Relations (TABDC) Kaan Soyak’s exclusive interview to “APA”
APA -How do you evaluate the current situation of Turkish-Armenian economical relations?
Kaan SOYAK-The economical relations are developing well despite of all difficulties; a lot of businessmen are establishing mutual relations. Armenian and Turkish businessmen are cooperating especially in the market of Russia and Middle Asia. Armenian Diaspora and Turkish businessmen have established serious relations recently. There are a lot of representatives of Armenian Diaspora willing to meet and cooperate with the businessmen from Anatolia.
APA – How much is the total volume of trade turnover between Armenian and Turkish businessmen at the moment?
Kaan SOYAK -This is not les than 100-120 million dollars. The nations of both countries are interested in establishing economical relations. There were large-scale trade relations between the Turks and Armenians in the history of Ottoman too. Sale and purchase are mutually at the moment. We have implemented some projects so far through the organization I run. We are cooperating in a number of spheres, especially energy, transportation, telecommunication, textile industry, tourism.
APA – Have you achieved any positive results as the result of the implementation of projects to normalize the relations between Armenia and Turkey? Could you do any change to the public opinion in comparison with the previous periods?
Kaan SOYAK – Of course…Turkish community got to know Armenia, Armenians again. They got to know that most of Armenians want to live in a friendly atmosphere with Turkish people. Turkish community treats the problems between Armenia and Azerbaijan more objectively; wrong policies of both countries are given coverage by the press obviously. It is accepted now that Russia’s obvious policy for the benefit of Armenia in previous years did nothing good. Besides, Turkish public opinion advocates objective resolution of the conflict. The economical difficulties faced by Anatolia province are due to the closing of Turkey-Armenia borderlines. Azerbaijan is also responsible as Armenia for Turkey facing this problem.
APA -Is Turkey which is facing hardships in regard to access to European Union expected to take any positive step in the direction of opening its borderlines with Armenia?
Kaan SOYAK -European Union is expecting Turkey-Armenia borderlines to open obviously. There is no reason to prevent this. Thus, Europeans do not think like Azerbaijanis regarding this matter.I mean, the conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia cannot be resolved by closing the borderlines, as you see it has not been solved so far. Azerbaijan puts pressure on Turkey for leaving the borderlines closed. However, changing of this policy would ease Turkey and provide opportunity for finding more active variant supported by the international community with regard to the resolution of the conflict. If Robert Kocharyan and Ilham Aliyev reach a consensus concerning the resolution of the conflict in Kazan on 26 August the matter of opening the borderlines will come to the agenda, of course.
APA -How does the international community assess the activity of TABDC?
Kaan SOYAK -They think positively concerning our activity. We have relations with a number of organizations. We have regular contacts with the high ranking officials of the important states. Even the UNO approves the activity of the TABDC and supports it. Our functioning is indicated as a model in other similar regions of the world.
APA – How do you evaluate the imprisonment of historical scientist Ektan Turkyilmaz in Turkey?
Kaan SOYAK -I regretted that Turkyilmaz was imprisoned, regrettably, Armenian government made a great mistake here. The matter of releasing of Turkyilmaz brought Turks and Armenians together. We all want him to be set free. Personally I do not believe that Turkyilmaz attempted to export forbidden books from Armenia on purpose. Azerbaijanis, Turks and Armenians can cooperate for releasing this scientist. The number of those intending to investigate the events happened in 1915 began to increase in the past few years. The number of those willing to investigate these archives has increased. The step taken by Armenia is not a right one.
APA -The official Ankara announced that it will not open its borderlines with Armenia in the period when you are increasing your efforts. How do such statements affect the activity of the TABDC?
Kaan SOYAK -Of course, such statements are not approvable, Ankara stated that its official position depends on the improvement in the resolution of the Upper Garabagh conflict and waits for the step taken in this direction. A consensus should be reached regarding this matter. The step to be taken by Azerbaijan is also important as the step of Armenia. Regrettably, it would not be right to announce the communities of both countries about the steps to be taken. Do remember how the radical nationalists criticized Turkey’s supporting Annan plan on the resolution of the Cyprus conflict. The communities of Azerbaijan and Armenia are very responsible for this matter. They have to support the step to be taken by the government and should know that these steps will be the most right steps for the future of the peoples even if they are not the most ideal ones.
APA -We would like to know your opinion concerning the so-called “genocide of Armenians”…
Kaan SOYAK – We do not deal with this matter, however, we want the both sides to discuss the matter together, exchange their information and documents. I treat this matter a little bit morally. I am impressed when seeing that Armenians from Anatolia still preserve the traditions of Anatolia though they lived in foreign countries for 2-3 generations. Though I want to tell them “come back and turn to your homes” inside me I know they will not return. God willing, if Turkey-Armenia borderlines are opened thousands of immigrant Armenians from Anatolia will visit Turkey, Armenia, even Azerbaijan as tourists. It is very important for us to understand each other morally in regard with the solution of the events happened in 1915.
APA -Do you believe the reconciliation of Turkish and Armenian peoples and opening of the borders?
Kaan SOYAK – I believe that, peace will be restored in the South Caucasus in a shortest time and the borderlines will be opened. Azerbaijan and Armenia should reach a consensus and Turkey-Armenia borderline should be opened in order to reconcile. The meeting due to in Kazan is very important in this matter, I believe that peace will be achieved soon if no one prevents it. The most important problem will be the status of the Upper Garabagh, of course. There must a formula for both countries to reach a consensus. Can Turkish businessmen cooperate with the businessmen of Upper Garabagh if there is no peace? Why not? There can never be any obstacle for trade. But, Upper Garabagh is not recognized by the international community. Therefore, no credit can be given to this region, the goods exported her can not be insured, international banks cannot function, there is no international guarantee for the capital invested here. There are some other problems, only free trade can be realized with this region unless the status of Upper Garabagh is defined, but, of course, no one wants such trade. The situation is the same in North Cyprus that is why no capital is invested to this region. I think, tourism must be the first sector which will be given impulse to by Turkey, Georgia, Azerbaijan and Armenia jointly, if peace is achieved and the borders are opened. The South Caucasus has the richest tourism potential in the world; this region can attract thousands of tourisms.
APA -The TABDC demonstrated the initiative on crossing the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan main export pipeline through Armenia …Do you still support your initiative?
Kaan SOYAK – The TABDC called the pipeline to pass through Armenia as “Pipeline of peace”, it means, this pipeline will link us for many years. All the countries, including Azerbaijan admit that the pipeline to pass through Armenia is more effective economically. The construction of Armenia section of the pipeline means 20% reduction in the financial expenditures. We cannot say that this matter was decided fully, there are pipelines remained from the USSR period in Armenia and it is possible to reconstruct these pipelines by the account of very little investment. As the result, Turkey and Azerbaijan might gain a lot of incomes from these pipelines.
APA – How much is Turkish community ready for the opinions, ideas you mention?
Kaan SOYAK -Turkish public fed up with the political difficulties, we have Cyprus problem which has been lasted for more than 30 years and expected to last, the problems with Iraq and Syria have not been solved and the problem in regard with Armenians has not been solved either. Turkish public opinion would not judge Azerbaijan 7-8 years ago, but now the public opinion is that Azerbaijan is not making enough efforts for achieving peace.
APA -What do think, your efforts will result in when Armenia makes territorial claims against Turkey?
Kaan SOYAK -The territorial claims have no ground and I have not met any Armenian working seriously in this direction. Minor part of the Armenian Diaspora claim this, but these claims are not accepted seriously by the community. The borderlines of the two countries are guaranteed by the international commitments and these claims will be removed after the diplomatic relations between Turkey and Armenia are restored. As the matter of fact, Azerbaijani Turks, Armenians and Anatolia Turks must chose a target as it is in Europe in which there is no borders and it is possible to move freely. Who can tell that one state has a territorial claim against the other in Europe today? Regrettably, such matters are only disputed in our region.
APA -There are Russian military bases in Armenia; don’t you think that this factor might endanger Turkish capital invested to the economy of Armenia?
Kaan SOYAK -Russia is not a threatening factor for Turkey; on the contrary, Turkey can meet some needs of Russian military bases. The Turkish are real professionals in meeting the needs of military objects. The USA military bases have been in Turkey for a long time and the needs of these bases have been met by Turkey. Russia intends to function together with Turkey. Russia and Turkey can keep peace in the South Caucasus jointly. The dividends gained by keeping peace in the South Caucasus are many times better for Russia than the dividends gained by the military bases.
APA -Have you been put any pressures by the government and NGOs of Azerbaijan with regard to your efforts in the direction of normalizing the relations with Armenia?
Kaan SOYAK -We want to establish peace between Armenians and Turkish people and we believe that our activity will be the foundation of peace and tranquility in the whole South Caucasus. On the other hand, we do not treat the problem like Armenia or Turkey. Therefore, we have been pressured by the organizations that interpret the problem meeting the interests of Azerbaijan. We always tell them to take into consideration the interests of Turkey too.
APA -Does the Foreign Ministry of Turkey support your activity?
Kaan SOYAK – We are not linked with the government; we are NGO that tries to normalize Turkish-Armenian relations. We have nothing against Turkey, Armenia or Azerbaijan. Turkish Foreign Ministry is aware of our activity.
APA -Are you supported by any people or organization from Azerbaijan?
Kaan SOYAK -No Azerbaijani or organization from Azerbaijan judged us when we explained our action plan .On the contrary, there are many persons and organizations that want us to include Azerbaijan into our activity circle. We are going to expand our action circle by the account of Azerbaijan and Georgia in a shortest time.