Transformations: Analysts say Armenia-Turkey rapprochement will change regional geopolitics

Leading Armenian political analysts believe Armenia will become a more important country for the region if it establishes diplomatic relations with Turkey and gets the border opened. They also consider a greater impact of the Armenian-Turkish rapprochement on regional geopolitics.

Earlier this month Armenia and Turkey, on the level of their foreign ministers, signed two protocols envisaging the establishment of diplomatic ties and development of bilateral relations between the two estranged neighbors. To gain legal force, the documents still need to be ratified by parliaments in both countries.

Gagik Keryan, who heads the Chair of Political Science at the Yerevan State University, says mending fences with the historical foe will open a new door for Armenia to participate in world politics. This participation, according to him, is currently limited to Russia.

“In fact, we now have only one door to the international arena. The bad thing is that our strategic partner [Russia] has no immediate border with Armenia. And Georgia and Azerbaijan that come between Armenia and Russia are quite unreliable for Russia in terms of cooperation,” says Keryan.

At the same time, according to Keryan, the establishment of diplomatic relations with Turkey will also bring about changes in Armenia’s relations with Russia and other neighbors.

“I am not saying that the opening of the border will harm Armenian-Russian relations, but Armenia and Russia will be on a more equal footing in their relations. Without having [alternative] gateways to the rest of the world, so far we have had to accept the foreign policy dictates of Russia in many arenas,” says Keryan.

The political analyst does not rule out that Azerbaijan, which is now disappointed with Turkey over its normalization with Armenia, will change the vector of its foreign policy and start seeking closer relations with Russia.

And in Keryan’s view, Armenia’s national interest is to prevent this warming of Russian-Azerbaijani strategic partnership.

Director of the Armenian Center for National and International Studies (ACNIS) Richard Giragosian also thinks that the Armenia-Turkey rapprochement has driven a wedge between Ankara and Baku.

“The concept ‘one nation, two states’ has become considerably weaker, if not non-existent. The Armenia-Turkey diplomacy has had an impact on the Turkey-Azerbaijan diplomacy,” said Giragosian at a recent press conference.

And Keryan notes that Georgia isn’t happy with the Armenia-Turkey rapprochement either as in that case it will be losing its status of a regional country interesting for all leading world powers.

“This will also lead to certain changes in Armenian-Georgian relations. Armenia, for instance, may present a tough position in the issue of Javakhk Armenians,” says Keryan in reference to the mostly Armenian-populated province in Georgia.

Yerevan-based Caucasus Institute Director Alexander Iskandaryan agrees that the normalization of Armenian-Turkish relations will lead to serious changes in the region, and, in particular, will change Georgia’s role, while Azerbaijan’s significance will weaken. This, according to him, will lead to greater stability in the entire region.

Keryan, meanwhile, thinks that Armenian-Turkish normalization could imply some worsening of relations between Yerevan and Tehran.

“Iran has been our partner since Armenia gained independence. But in the event of the opening of the Armenian-Turkish border Armenia may lose the warm relations with Iran that it has enjoyed so far. And this aspect requires a thorough study,” says Keryan.

Keryan thinks that Iran, as an extremely anti-West country, will never welcome the settlement of Armenian-Turkish relations based solely on the fact that Turkey is a Western ally.