Peace in Nagorno-Karabakh would normalize Turkish-Armenian relations

Daily Sabah
Peace in Nagorno-Karabakh would normalize Turkish-Armenian relations

After Russian President Vladimir Putin met with Azerbaijani President İlham Aliyev and Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan and both leaders agreed to boost the number of monitors in the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region and discuss concrete measures that would speed up the negotiating process, experts have said that while a deal would aid the normalization of Turkish-Armenian relations, it is still too soon to expect any significant diplomatic breakthrough over the disputed region. Although the release of the joint statement did not provide any details on the number for monitors or a deployment deadline, there are currently six unarmed observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in the region.

Commenting on the recently held meeting and the agreement, Emre Erşen from Marmara University in Istanbul said that while a peaceful solution could positively affect Turkish-Armenian relations, "it is not realistic to expect a sudden improvement in relations between Ankara and Yerevan even if a final settlement is reached regarding the Nagorno-Karabakh problem." Echoing Erşen's remarks, a senior associate at the Carnegie Europe Thomas de Waal said that "the meeting in St. Petersburg delivered only modest results." Oktay Tanrısever, an expert on Russia and Central Asia, said that such an agreement would have a positive effect on Turkish-Armenian relations, but with the caveat that they are far from reaching a permanent solution.

Speaking about Monday's meeting in St. Petersburg, Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Elmar Mamedyarov said: "The meeting was held in a constructive atmosphere. The Azerbaijani side positively assessed its results. We believe that this meeting will open the door for swift progress in the process of negotiations on the settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict." The director of Yerevan-based Regional Studies Center think tank, Richard Giragosian, told Daily Sabah on Thursday that "despite the more exuberant statements made by a senior Azerbaijani presidential adviser, it seems far too premature to expect any significant or tangible diplomatic breakthrough over the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict."Giragosian further said: "The real test will be in the coming months, when Azerbaijan will be expected to fulfill its promises to allow an increased OSCE monitoring mission," and added: "Even this step, if implemented, does little to inspire confidence in diplomacy, especially as the lack of political will remains bolstered by Baku's domestic dividends from using force over diplomacy. In this context, we can only expect more fighting into the summer, especially as Azerbaijan's new military objective of seizing and securing territory has, at least to a limited degree, succeeded in altering the deadlock of a deadly status quo."

Similarly to Giragosian, de Waal said that there is still a set of problems in the Nagorno-Karabakh region that include "an almost completely unmonitored front line between two heavily armed sides, dangerous levels of rhetoric, extreme expectations and unwillingness to compromise in both societies amidst a comparative lack of international interest.

"Despite recent efforts, this cocktail of problems could still lead us to new conflicts, which would probably be worse than what we saw in April." Erşen said: "Similar agreements between Baku and Yerevan have failed in the past, despite the efforts of the OSCE Minsk Group, which also includes Russia as a co-chair. On the other hand, Armenia's military relations with Russia have developed remarkably, especially in the last few years." He said that it is not realistic to expect a solution immediately. Tanrısever also said that even though talks between Armenia and Azerbaijan have been ongoing since 2010, tensions increased last year – a problem he said must be solved with a comprehensive resolution and not a partial one. Regarding possible normalization of relations between Turkey and Armenia following an agreement on the Nagorno-Karabakh region, de Waal said: "There is much less goodwill between Armenians and Turks," whereas Giragosian said there has been progress in normalizing relations "with a new, changed landscape, where Azerbaijan was able to retake territory for the first time in over two decades, there is now a greater opportunity for at least moving toward such progress."