Pending Normalization of Turkish-Armenian Relations: Implications for Georgia13.08.2012

Date: January 2010 
Title: Pending Normalization of Turkish-Armenian Relations: Implications for Georgia
Author: Ghia Nodia, CIPDD chariman 
Donor: The paper is published with financial support of the Think Tank Fund of the Open Society Institute - Budapest. The opinions it contains are solely those of the author and do not reflect the position of the OSI TTF.  
Pages: 12(Georgian), 8 (English)

                                                                              Turkish-Armenian Relations PDF
Executive Summary

The expected normalization in Turkish-Armenian relations may turn out to be the most momentous change in the security set-up of the South Caucasus since the break-up of the Soviet Union. Its results may even overshadow those of the August 2008 Russia-Georgia war which did not lead to a substantive redrawing of the map of regional alliances and disputes. 

At this point in time, two fundamental uncertainties exist on this issue. The first is, whether the process will actually reach its conclusion. That is to say, whether the protocols signed on October 10 in Zürich by the two countries’ foreign ministers will be ratified by their respective legislatures, thus paving the way for the restoration of diplomatic relations and cross-border communications. One sticking point is the question of whether the ratification of the deal by the Turkish Parliament should be linked to the achievement of genuine progress in the resolution of the Nagorno Karabakh conflict. On the other hand, there is resistance from within Armenian society among those who believe that the agreement would damage efforts to secure recognition of the Armenian genocide. Another big area of uncertainty is related to the impact that the rapprochement between Turkey and Armenia, if it does happen, will have on the regional security environment. 

Many within the Georgian expert community think that the impending Turkish-Armenian deal implies inherent dangers for Georgia’s economic and security interests. There are three main areas of concern:  

* The agreement will undermine Georgia’s position as a major transit country in the region, thus bringing economic losses; 
* The Armenian government, being less dependent on Georgia, will be more active in supporting the demands of Armenian nationalist groups active in the Georgian province of Samtskhe-Javakheti thus destabilizing the region; 
* The whole process is part of a joint Russian-Turkish agenda to reduce the influence of Western powers in the region, which will make it easier for Russia to turn Georgia into a satellite state. 

Each of these points constitutes a legitimate ground for concern. However, careful analysis shows that the process of Turkish-Armenian normalization, if successful, would create new opportunities for the faster economic development of the region (including Georgia), and would help bring it closer to Europe. So, on balance, the potential benefits of a Turkish-Armenian rapprochement are likely to outweigh the potential risks. 
The Georgian government has little capacity to influence the process of normalization and there is no reason for Georgia to pursue a more active role on this issue. However, there are several policy areas to focus on in this regard: 

* The Georgian government should more clearly state its support for improved Turkish-Armenian relations, especially if this is linked to achieving progress in the Nagorno Karabakh issue.  
* The government should pursue projects aimed at further developing economic ties between Armenia and Georgia. The government and, especially, think-tank community should be more proactive in explaining to society why these projects contribute to Georgia’s national interest.
* Patient and consistent policy should be continued and further developed with regards to the ethnic Armenian community of Javakheti. This should include proactive measures to more fully integrate the region’s population into the political, economic and civil life of the country, as well as large-scale public dialogue on best policies to pursue those goals. Experts and public figures from Armenia should also be encouraged to take part in this dialogue. 
* The Georgian government, academic institutions and think tanks should focus more on researching the politics of regional actors, especially Turkey and Armenia.

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