Hello and welcome to the Armenian News Network, Groong, today we will be talking about the Turkish-Armenian Normalization process in progress between the two countries and potential impact on the Armenia-Diaspora relations.
This episode was recorded on Friday, January 7, 2022.
One of the outcomes of the capitulation agreement that Armenia signed to end the 44-Day War was that it committed to unblocking “all economic and transport connections in the region”, primarily referring to opening communication links through its territory between mainland Azerbaijan and Nakhichevan.
Events following the November 9 Agreement indicate that Armenia is working towards a larger regional plan that includes normalization of relations with Turkey as well as establishing a final peace deal with Azerbaijan. The Armenian government claims that it has received such a mandate from Armenian voters as a result of the June 20, 2021, parliamentary elections.
Obviously, Turkey’s blockade of Armenia shortly after Armenia gained independence in 1991 and the lack of diplomatic relations between them is a major obstacle to fulfilling Pashinyan’s goal of bringing an “era of peace in the region”. To this effect, we’ve seen attempts by Turkey and Armenia to normalize relations following the war. Both countries have appointed envoys to work towards this goal.
To talk about these issues, we are joined by:
Harut Sassounian, who has been the publisher of The California Courier newspaper since 1983. He is also the President of the Armenia Artsakh Fund, a non-profit organization which has delivered to Armenia and Artsakh $947 million of humanitarian assistance since 1989. He is currently engaged in forming the Diaspora Armenian Parliament through local elections.
In fact, Armenia has already been around this block before. All three of Pashinyan’s predecessors have attempted to improve relations with Turkey, without success. Levon Ter-Petrosyan attempted to open relations in the early 90s, but Turkey stopped the process after Armenia’s successes in the first Artsakh War, specifically the capture of Kelbajar in 1993. During Kocharyan’s first term, the so-called “Turkish-Armenian Reconciliation Commission” (TARC) was launched under the guidance of the US State Dept. The commission issued non-binding recommendations to the sides and ceased activity in 2004, without any apparent impact to the normalization process. During Serzh Sargsyan presidency the two countries kicked the ball around for a while during “Football Diplomacy”, but the game was aborted without results. The Armenia-Turkey protocols were signed in 2009, but neither country’s parliament ratified them.
So here we are again.
Harut, neither of the two countries is about to pack up and leave the planet, so they do need to talk to each other and have some form of relationship. So, nobody’s against having relations, would you agree?
Who are the players?
● Turkey has appointed one of its top diplomats, Serdar Kiliç as its lead negotiator. What can you tell us about him? What does his appointment signal to Armenians?
● Armenia has appointed Ruben Rubinyan, who is a loyalist of PM Pashinyan. Why was he selected for this role? What signal is Armenia sending with this appointment?
Is opening the border with Turkey an obligation logically following from the November Agreement, as some media have reported? Or are these separate things?
Why now? Is this a good time for Turkey and Armenia to reboot their relationship?
What is the agenda of these Normalization negotiations?
● What is included? What should be included and is not?
● What is excluded? What should be excluded and is not?
Is there a difference between the former attempts at building this relationship, and the current Normalization negotiations?
● Why did TARC fail? Why did Football Diplomacy fail?
● What are the lessons we should bring forward from former experiences to the current negotiations?
Assuming that all sides are approaching this process with their national interests as their paramount concern, what are some of the key pitfalls and also opportunities presented to Armenia here?
● We’ve heard speculation by the Armenian government about the economic boom that is likely to result from opening the border and trading with Turkey. Most non-governmental expectations are much more circumspect.
A third of the worldwide Armenian nation lives in the Republic of Armenia. Two-thirds live in the DIaspora. A vast component of the Armenian DIaspora was formed as a result of the Armenian Genocide. You’re a descendent of survivor grandparents, as are both Hovik and I.
The independent Republic of Armenia is a member of the community of states and has access to international legal levers and resources. The Armenian Diaspora does not.
● Is Armenia an appropriate or even an adequate representative of the Diaspora’s demands for Genocide recognition, and reparation during these negotiations?
● Can the Diaspora’s agenda be separated from the Republic’s agenda, as far as what should be in these negotiations?
● Does the Diaspora have legal, or even adequate representatives to stand for its interests in negotiating with a state entity?
That concludes this Conversations On Groong episode. As always we invite your feedback, Thanks to Laura Osborn for the music on our podcasts. Don’t forget to subscribe to our channel on YouTube, Like our pages and follow us on Twitter. On behalf of everyone in this episode, we wish you a good week, thanks for listening and we’ll talk to you soon.
Harut Sassounian, Armenia, Turkey, Turkish Armenian Normalization, Turkish Armenian Reconciliation, Serdar Kiliç, Rouben Rubinyan, Armenian Genocide, South Caucasus, Nakhichevan, Syunik, Zangezur, Transportation Links, Communication Links, Corridors, Economy, Azerbaijan, War, Kars, Gyumri, Railway, Trains,