Turkey’s game for the Caucasus

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV Media network.

“The process of normalising Turkish-Armenian relations which has been observed [since the Russian-Georgian war in August 2008] is the most important element of Turkey’s new policy towards the Caucasus,” writes Maciej Falkowski, a researcher at the Warsaw-based Centre for Eastern Studies (CES), in an October paper.

“However, [this] process of normalisation […] has met with a number of serious impediments, which mean that it could be blocked at any moment,” Falkowski says, recalling that the process has aroused controversies in both Armenia and Turkey.

“Most political forces in Armenia have raised serious objections to a rapprochement with Turkey,” he explains, while “nationalist circles in Turkey do not want reconciliation with Armenia either”.

Moreover, Azerbaijan has vehemently protested against the possible opening of the Turkish-Armenian border, insisting that the conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh must be resolved first.

Armenia has controlled Nagorno-Karabakh, which lies wholly within Azerbaijan, since a war was fought over the landlocked region between 1988 and 1994, leaving at least 6,000 dead. A ceasefire brokered by Russia has held since 1994.

According to Falkowski, “as yet, little seems to indicate any likelihood of a breakthrough in the Karabakh conflict”.

Moreover, “Turkish-Armenian relations can only be normalised if Moscow takes at least a neutral stance,” the researcher adds. But “the previous Russian policy, and the signs received from Russia so far, seem to prove that Moscow is rather reluctant to accept the normalisation process,” he writes.

Indeed, “Moscow, which still believes that Caucasus lies within its own zone of influence, will in principle object to any increase in other countries’ presence in this region,” he concludes. 

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