Indirect diplomacy: Turkey’s plan of third border crossing point with Armenia - ANALYSIS
The cards that Ankara has on this issue are the dividends caused by closed borders, lack of diplomatic relations, the psychological advantage gained by failure of implementation of the Zurich Protocols due to refusal by Armenia, and Yerevan’s unwillingness to establish a joint commission on history.
There are other objective resources that Turkey can take advantage of them against the so-called Armenian genocide. One of them is the discovery of mass graves, which are the results of the genocide committed in Anatolia by Armenians against the Turks, and the other is the use of crimes committed by ASALA terrorist organization and the Khojaly genocide for world-wide anti-Armenian propaganda. Unfortunately, these resources have not been used over the past years, on the other hand, we regret to observe how Turkey, which takes a defeatist positions, is still obeying the pressures regarding the opening of border with Armenia.
On the other hand, the realities that the Armenian lobby takes an active part in Ankara, Armenia has gained the chance to influence policy of Turkey (appointment of Etienne Mahcupyan as Senior Advisor to Turkish Prime Minister), a series of events have been held in Ankara in order to lobby the interests of Armenia, the process of public opinion formation on the necessity of opening borders has intensified and diplomats (Unal Chevikoz) who are the major participants of the secret talks between Turkey and Armenia have been involved in this process are inevitable. Unfortunately, Turkish policy on Armenia is determined not by the objective factors based on far-sighted policy but these realities.
Analysis of the situation shows that Ankara is based on three key factors for opening border with Armenia.
a) Western pressures
b) Need of reckoning with the interests of Azerbaijan
c) Increasing trade volume with Armenia
In fact, the latter can’t be regarded as an objective factor, as Armenia's share in Turkey's foreign trade turnover is very low. Turkey is using an informal trade with Armenia as a “trump card” against the Western pressures, and Ankara is interested in regarding this factor as an objective factor in order to reduce the pressures. Though, Turkey keeps de jure borders with Armenia closed, it has established trade relations with this country through third countries, and the volume of trade turnover between the two countries has substantially increased since the signing of the Zurich protocols.
Ankara is taking a "unique" step to neutralize the growing pressures on the eve of the 100th anniversary of so-called Armenian genocide. What is this step and what is its uniqueness? We are talking about the opening of new Çıldır Aktas border crossing point in Erdahan on the border with Georgia. This border point means de facto open borders with Armenia. Because ...
Cargo transportation from Turkey to Armenia is carried out through Sarpi checkpoint on Georgian border. Trucks traveling 264 km enter Ninotsminda-Bavra border crossing point located on Georgian-Armenian border and cross the territory of Armenia after implementing customs procedures. It is the main route which realizes trade turnover between Turkey and Armenia in the amount of about $ 10 mln. The opening of Çıldır Aktas border crossing point on the border between Turkey and Georgia will facilitate cargo transportation to Armenia. Cargo trucks moving to Armenia will enter Georgia not through Sarpi, but through Çıldır and after traveling 30 km they will arrive in Ninotsminda-Bavra border crossing point on Georgian-Armenian border. Thus, cargo transportation route from Turkey to Armenia would be reduced 8 times (!). Transportation cost reduction means reduction in the cost of goods exported to Armenia, providing cheaper Turkish goods for the Armenians with low purchasing power. It is a way-out for Armenia that is suffering from severe economic crisis and drowning in a price increase. Unfortunately, it is Azerbaijan's strategic ally – Turkey that offers a way-out for suffocating Armenia.
The construction of Çıldır Aktas border checkpoint allows neutralizing the three objective factors faced by Ankara in the opening of the border with Armenia.
First, though Ankara failed to open Doğu Kapı border crossing point because of internal and external factors, opening another border checkpoint that has the same significance shows interest in opening the border with Armenia.
Second, Azerbaijan can not directly express its concern as Çıldır Aktas border crossing point is located on the border with Georgia not with Armenia. Turkey can justify the opening of Çıldır Aktaş border point as a step taken toward reducing the volume of freight transport from Sarpi checkpoint. According to Ankara there are no changes: borders are not open, diplomatic relations were not built, Azerbaijan’s interests are being considered, the opening of a new border point has nothing to do with Armenia, on the contrary, it contributes to increasing the volume of goods transportation from Turkey to Georgia and Azerbaijan and vise versa.
Third, providing indirect support to businessmen, having trade relations with Armenia, Turkey encourages them to expand trade ties with Yerevan and ensures the increase in the volume of trade turnover (Turkey sees this factor as a response to the Western pressures on the eve of century).
As can be seen, despite its official statements, Ankara failed to get rid of “100-year” phobia. Armenian lobbyists in Turkey are intending to complete the issue with the victory of Armenia.
If the main line of the public opinion Turkish media is trying to form is the idea “Ankara has no alternative left”, all Ankara officials know that the only and long-term alternative is in fact to take Azerbaijan’s interests into account. In order to use this alternative, just one thing is required – to demonstrate political will and prevent (restrict) Armenia from lobbying its interests in Turkey.
Because no matter how bitter the truth is, now there is an Armenian lobby in Turkey which supports Armenia’s interests in politics, trade, and media. Etienne Mahchupyan being the chief advisor to Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu and his arrangement of the “sealed door” conference which emphasized the importance of opening the border with Armenia are just one example.
There is no question whether Turkey has abandoned Azerbaijan in its foreign policy or not. Both countries develop their bilateral relations in all spheres based on mutual interests without exception. Some authorities in Turkey just indirectly put Azerbaijan’s interests in jeopardy at some points (which are vitally important for Azerbaijan) where interests encounter. Especially in the issues like Armenia’s policy and the opening of the border, Azerbaijan’s position should definitely be taken into account.
The reality of Azerbaijan realizing the projects which increased Turkey’s special weight in the region and earned it statuses like “the energy state” and “the most important country in freight transportation and energy transport between the East and the West” can never be ignored. Turkey benefits from the dividends it acquired on account of the projects implemented by Azerbaijan not only in the region, but also in the relations with the Middle East, the European Union, and the United States. As a matter of fact, Azerbaijan is of far greater importance to Turkey than Armenia. Ankara must not overlook this objective factor. Most importantly, the reality that building indirect relations with Armenia will cause imbalance rather than balance on the scale must definitely be considered in Turkey’s foreign policy.
And it should certainly be taken into consideration that the main reason behind the closure of the Turkey-Armenia border is the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and also the so-called Armenian genocide claims, as stated by Etienne Mahchupyan and other Armenian lobbyists in Turkey. Turkey must accept this reality and not use the thesis “Azerbaijan is the main reason for us facing pressure with regards to Armenia” against Baku in accordance with the spirit of strategic cooperation.
APA Analytic Center
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