Political expert: Reports that the Azeri Parliament might adopt a law "On Occupied Territories of Azerbaijan" were just an attempt to see the reaction of the Azeri society, Armenia and the world community
Marat Terterov: Armenia’s long term security will be better served by strengthening economic security, rather than defining national security on the basis of the Tsarist Russian catch-cry “armiya i flot”
ArmInfo’s interview with Ara Papyan, Head of Modus Vivendi Center for Social Studies, Ambassador of Armenia to Canada in 2000-2006
by David Stepanyan
Would you characterize the state of the Armenian-Turkish relations over the period following the signing of the Zurich Protocols?
Obviously, today Turkey is more involved in the processes in the South Caucasus and, particularly, in the Karabakh process, than it was before 2009. The statements made from the viewpoint of Ankara have become possible after the Armenian-Turkish protocols were signed in Zurich. Although the provisions in the protocols have remained on paper, the relations of the two peoples have actually grown tense, especially after recent attacks and murders of elderly ethnic Armenian women in Istanbul. Generally, this is a result of the growing nationalism in the Turkish public. Turkey's economic growth, Erdogan's hot speeches, threats addressed to the West inevitably boost nationalism in the Turkish public. Turkey has not behaved in such a style for a long time already. The policy of Ankara has a geopolitical explanation, because the USSR collapsed long ago, and Russia no longer constitutes threat to Turkey. Quite to the contrary, Turkey is troubling the South Caucasus from time to time.
Do you advocate opening the border with Turkey?
Certainly, I do. However, coming out for opening of the border, I have always been against signing of the protocols. These are two different ideas, as the price for opening the border fixed in the protocols is too high for Armenia. The devil is in the details. When joining the WTO, Armenia presented a strict customs and tax system regarding all the goods imported to the republic. In other words, low taxes will be imposed on the Turkish goods imported to Armenia. At the same time, rather high taxes will be imposed on the Armenian goods. For this reason, it is simply senseless to speak about competition between Armenian and Turkish goods in such unequal conditions. Any foreign citizen may buy land and real estate in Armenia, whereas in Turkey, especially in its eastern regions, the permission of the regional military prefect is needed for that. So, Turkey may implement an economic expansion in Armenia spending just several billion of dollars, if it wants. The Protocols give no guarantee that Turkey will not close the border to Armenia at any moment. This also contains threats for us. For this reason, opening of the border on the conditions which are similar to those fixed in the Protocols, is impossible for Armenia. These conditions should be revised, detailed and specified.
Valerie Boyer, a French lawmaker, has made a fresh attempt to bring a bill penalizing the denial of Armenian Genocide to the forefront. Have the prospects for its adoption changed since the new President of France came to power?
Unlike a year ago, now there are fewer chances that France will pass the bill criminalizing the Armenian genocide denial. I don't think that the bill will be passed. Unfortunately, foreign countries traditionally use the problem of recognition of the Armenian Genocide for domestic political purposes. However, one should not blame them for that. Initiating the bill once again Valerie Boyer just fulfills her promises to her Armenian voters who funded her campaign in exchange for that in line with the French laws. Unlike Azerbaijan and Turkey that have billions but fail to fund election campaigns in the West in the legal way, the Armenian lobby has such an opportunity. That is why the Armenian Diaspora is so influential in Europe and the USA.
At the same time, I think the time for the demand on recognition of the Armenian genocide and criminalization for its denial has ended. The time has come for withdrawal of its consequences. The Armenians killed in Ottoman Turkey had a big property which should be returned to the offsprings of the victims of the Genocide. There were 2230 Armenian churches and monasteries functioning in the Western Armenia in 1913. Nobody knows their true cost, but they cost billions. Incidentally, they have already returned a certain sum to the Armenian Church, but only in Istanbul. This process did not touch on the territories of the Western Armenia. In this context, recognition of the Armenian genocide and criminalization of its denial in several countries, in fact, will change nothing. The core of the Armenian Cause should be cardinally changed. A heavy crime was committed in 1915, and not having an opportunity to punish those who committed it, it is quite logical to demand returning the property which was stolen from the victims of this crime. We and nobody else should gain it.
We should do it via the UN International Court. According to the arbitral decision of US President Woodrow Wilson, Armenia has certain rights. This decision is still valid. Somebody may object and just the UN International Court may decide who is right. Meanwhile, Wilson's arbitral decision was forgotten long ago in Armenia, and was published last year. He thinks that the Armenian authorities feel comfortable in the situation of standstill, they are satisfied with the present situation and they are not ready to make sharp steps and change something. Meanwhile, 1-2 billion of dollars are not enough for Armenia to go ahead, dozens of billions are necessary for that. It is impossible to raise economy by means of credits and the only way for that is returning the property taken from the Armenians in 1915.
You have mentioned Ankara’s active steps towards the South Caucasus, but there is also an opposite opinion saying that today Turkey is locked up in its southern borders…
After the sharp worsening of the situation in Syria for the last year, today Turkey is locked up in its southern borders. But this does not at all hinder Turkey to be active in the Caucasus as well. Finally, the Syrian problem is not everlasting. It will be resolved in a year or two but not by Turkey, as the latter does not have the needed potential. In this sense, the Karabakh conflict is a long lasting one and is like the Israeli-Palestine conflict that has been lasting for dozens of years. I think that today Azerbaijan and Turkey do not have the military scenario for resolving the problems of Armenia and the NKR. They are trying to involve Armenia in the arms race and rivalry, just the same way as the USA did regarding the USSR when unleashed the "cold war". So, Baku and Ankara link the settlement of the Karabakh conflict with a long lasting prospect, for dozens of years. They understand very well that Azerbaijan will not be able to gain a victory over Armenia, as experience shows that nothing consolidates Armenians so much than war. Turkey's ex-president Turgut Ozal understood that very well and called on Baku to return Karabakh to the Armenians, to wait for 50 years and take it back without bloodshed. For this reason, we should look for the new better ways out of this long-lasting "cold war".
After the change of power in Georgia, new ways seem to have appeared. Today Armenia, together with Russia, Georgia and Iran, can break the situation in the region via formation of a new axis from north to south…
If Georgia is really interested in it, very much will really change in our region. Unfortunately, I am not optimistic in the matter of Georgia's position. I am very much surprised at the anti-Armenian mood in that country, taking into consideration the fact how much Armenians did for establishment of that country. Even Istanbul has no such an attitude to Armenians. Georgia's attitude to Russia is similar. Yes, the bolsheviks used to take not the best steps regarding Georgia and Armenia. But one should say that the Russian imperialism often met interests of both Armenians and Georgians. As a result, the Armenians preferred the Russian boot instead of the Turkish yatagan. As for Georgians, they never had a problem of physical destruction by the Turks, and quickly forgot the years of staying under the Turkish boot, which was heavier than the Russian one. Over all the years of Gamsakhurdia's and Saakashvili's tenure the Georgian society was under the influence of the anti-Russian and anti-Armenian propaganda.
But now there is a common interest, which is more important than the false stereotypes. And today’s Europe is the best example of that…
Yes, but the psychology of the society is very much important and the pragmatism of businessman Ivanishvili will be not enough to break this psychology. Anyway, Ivanishvili's pragmatism is our only hope in functioning of the axis you have mentioned, as he has obviously calculated the benefits this axis will bring to Georgia and personally to him. These benefits exceed much the benefits from exploiting of the corridor between the Caspian and Black Seas, taking into consideration the fact that Iran refused to have communication with Russia through Azerbaijan. Iran is a very serious geo-political player, and unlike Russia, it puts its geo-political interests higher that the economic ones. For instance, Moscow has recently sold modern weapon to the enemy of its only strategic partner in the region Azerbaijan. If such a scenario is realized, in that case the transit role of Georgia will grow much for Russia, which will get direct access to the Middle East, and for Armenia, which will finally get out of blockade. As for Azerbaijan and Turkey, they will lose much first of all in Georgia, which the Turks will finally buy in 50 years. For this reason, so that not to find themselves under the Turkish boot once again, the Georgians have to break illusions regarding Abkhazia and South Ossetia and be pragmatic. I hope very much that businessman Ivanishvili will manage to inspire this to the Georgian society.