Interview by Gulay Kilic (JTW)
Journal of Turkish Weekly conducted an interview with Mr. Artak Shakaryan, Eurasia Partnership Foundation, Turkey Program Manager on Turkish-Armenian relations.
Q: We know that Armenia is mostly under the sway of Russia, both economically and militarily. Is there a full public support for that in Armenia?
A: No, there is no full public support. Especially if you track the “Facebook groups”, which is the young generation, mostly the young generation is against that, against ‘Russification’ of Armenia. But actually if you dig a bit deeper, you will see that for Armenian side there is no other alternative. And that is why United States of America is fully supporting the opening of Armenian-Turkish border because they understand that if Armenian-Turkish border opens Armenia will be opened to West and Armenia will balance Russia with West or USA. So that is why Armenia-Turkish border opening is crucial for balancing Russia.
Q: The unresolved Nagorno-Karabakh conflict continues to remain as a blocking stone for the full embracing of all the states in the region and it has been more than 15 years that no peace agreement could be concluded. Do you believe that the OSCE Minsk Group is a vivid institutional framework as a moderator given that so far it has achieved nothing?
A: Well, Azerbaijan and Armenia together without any other third party will sit around the table and resolve it. This is the real one, the only real way to do it. There is no alternative to Minsk Group, unfortunately, because Minsk Group includes Russia, Europe and USA, the global regional powers, and if they are not in the game no one can do anything. So there is no alternative to Minsk, but Minsk is not doing its best because neither Azerbaijan nor Armenia is ready for a change, I mentioned in the conference, neither Armenian government nor Azeri government seriously and frankly wants the full resolution of the problem.
Q: The first president of Armenia, Levon Ter-Petrossian, who had a strong social support in Armenia, was about to agree with Azerbaijan’s president Heydar Aliyev to solve the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and this cost him his presidency. What are the possible changes should we expect in case Ter-Petrossian to return to power and how would his return affect the solution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict?
A: It was not about him personally, because it’s not a personal matter, so it’s more about society and society deposed, though we thought that there is a plot from Russia. But even now we will see, if he comes to society nowadays and he wants to do anything he can’t do much. Well, look at the situation of Armenia, if you take some steps without reciprocity from Baku, it will be a political suicide. If Levon Ter-Petrossian comes to the power and does something not logical in Karabakh issue it will be self-suicide politically. If he takes a logical pace, even if Serzh Sargsyan does the logical thing it will be satisfactory to plaudit because the Armenian side is sick of that question and we believe that Azeri side is also sick of that question. But because of lack of democracy in Armenia and Azerbaijan, I would say there is lesser democracy in Azerbaijan because we remember the last elections in Azerbaijan, and the blogger issue etc. Let’s not talk about that, I don’t like blaming others, I always try to find something in our side. But it’s two-fold, since you have no democracy, the authoritarians do not want to resolve the question but if there is democracy and the societies are fully ready -because the societies are not fully ready to resolve the question; in Azerbaijani school textbooks Armenians are still depicted as the bad guys, in Armenian textbooks Azeris are depicted as bad guys- it will be easy to resolve the case. So when the both societies come out with that ‘bad guy-imagery’, it blocks the solutions thus the societies are not ready for reconciliation. So there is something getting deeper and deeper. It is not right to say “time is working for Azerbaijan” or “for Armenia” because the generations hating each other are drifting away from one another and generate aggression towards each other.
Q: Yes, it is not a simple problem, I think. And last question, we would like to get your opinions on the possible near future scenarios concerning Nagorno-Karabakh and do you see any prospects for a peaceful resolution of Nagorno-Karabakh conflict — in short term or in long term?
A: I am fully optimistic about the peaceful resolution, I am sure that Azerbaijan will not wage for war, it’s just a military rhetoric, or an effort for the nationalists’ votes to come. The rumours of war are not real because the strategy analysis shows that only when Azerbaijan is ten times stronger than Armenia. Baku can go for an attack on Armenia and even if it is so, the pipeline, the investment etc. bring money not only to the national budget but they also bring to money to the personal budget of some people there, so they won’t risk that for war. Status quo is okay both for Azerbaijan and for Armenia. What will change if leadership in Armenia and Azerbaijan simultaneously change to a more democratic leadership? Perhaps it will contribute to the process. However, if something very serious happens like Russian-Georgian War or attack on Iran, maybe that will help to catalyze the events and make some rush. Well, if the sides understand that cooperating and stepping back it will be better that will change a lot. But now it seems that we need 15 years time…
Q: Could you answer shortly Turkish and Armenian relations. How do you see the future of the Turkish-Armenian relations?
A: The near future is that 2013 is the year when Armenia and Turkey have actions because it is the revival of protocols and Zurich II will start there then. Also we have 2015 the 100th year of genocide and Washington will push Ankara and Yerevan to do something. I don’t say about there will be change in everything but for opening of borders for two weeks in a month, for example. So something symbolic will be done by the 2015.