Interview with Ergun Kirlikovali,
Past President, Assembly of Turkish-American Associations
-What should we expect from Turkish policy with President Erdogan?
- President Erdogan will be more determined in his policies and more forceful in implementation. He has gotten a strong mandate from the Turkish people with 52% of the votes. He said he would change, if elected, the "figure head" image of the president into one that is involved in every facet of Turkish life. Now, there is no stopping him.
-Serj Sargsyan congratulated elected President Erdogan and expressed a hope that he will make effort to get Turkish-Armenian protocols get ratified. How serious may Sargsyan’s expectations could be or it is just a diplomatic gesture?
- It is just a diplomatic gesture on the part of Serj Sargsyan, so that he can say to the world "Look, I congratulated Erdogan for his election victory and started a peaceful dialog with him.
He is the one who rejects dialog with Armenia." Erdogan made it very clear, many times, that there would be no improvement of relations between Turkey and Armenia until and unless Armenia withdraws from Karabagh. Serj Sargsyan thinks he can use the congratulation gesture as a tool to exert international pressure on Erdogan and such cheap trciks will not work. They never did before. Now, it is nearly impossible, knowing how determined Erdogan is.
-Are you sure that President Erdogan may visit Armenia in April next year to commemorate of 100-s anniversary of 1915’s events?
- I do not believe that Erdogan will visit Armenia in 2015 for the anniversary. That is out of the question. Armenia must heed the U.N. resolutions first and end occupation of Western Azerbaijan before Armenia can be taken seriously.- Do you believe this information of Armenian media?
- No. And I do not think Armenians believe it, either.
-Is there a threat that Turkey will refuse from progress in Azerbaijan-Armenia conflict as a precondition for Turkish-Armenia rapprochement process?
- Turkey's position is clear: No progress, no rapprochement. That is, if Armenian makes no attempt that can be considered as progress in Azerbaijan-Armenia conflict, then Armenia should not expect any rapprochement in Turkish-Armenia relations. As strong as Erdogan is in Turkey, I do not think even he can change this policy as the Turkish people will not go for it. Turkey public wants Armenia to end military occupation, allow Azeri refugees to return to their homes and then Armenia can take about rapprochement.-By the way, Turkey was monitoring closely recent military clashes in Karabakh, representatives of the Turkish leadership have been expressing their position on this conflict. How would you comment on opinion that Turkey is amongst few states which are really interested in progress in NK and really can play a fruitful role in this process?
- Turkey's interest in NK is real and sincere. Turkish public is very upset with the aggression and brutality Armenia has shown in NK during the 1992-1994 war and the ethnic cleansing the Armenian military has conducted during and after the war. Turkey is also uncomfortable with the lethargic Minsk Group where Russia does absolutely nothing and France is even worse, helping Armenians. That is no way to conduct peace talks. Russia needs to decide if Russia is Armenia's lawyer, mentor, or mouth piece on the one hand or a fair and non-partisan arbitrator and a peace negotiator. The U.S. is keeping its distance from the process, it seems, while also helping Azerbaijan. Turkey sees all this and is frustrated by this biased treatment of Azerbaijan.
- Turkey knows it can play a more fruitful role in the peace process while also leveling the playing field for Azerbaijan.-Armenia is isolated by Azerbaijan and Turkey from regional infrastructural and energy projects. Do you believe that Armenia may join them if it renounces its traditional policies and what benefits it would bring to Yerevan?
- Armenia may be allowed to join only if NK is returned to Azerbaijan, Azeri refugees are allowed to return to their homes, and Armenia stops defaming Turkey and demonizing Turks and Azeris as a matter of state policy. That is a tall order and I don’t think Armenian can even come halfway to these goals. Be that as it may, these are the minimum preconditions for Armenia to come out of its isolation and/or join the regional infrastructural and energy projects.
- Armenia is slowly and surely missing the train. The train is about to take off and there is no stopping that train. The clock certainly ticks against the interests of Armenia. That much is crystal clear.