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Armenia would better to estimate loss from fiasco of "football diplomacy"

19 May 2010 [13:52] - TODAY.AZ
Armenians would better be estimating losses from the "football diplomacy" rather than dividends.

The "Football diplomacy", initiated by Armenia and their patrons last year which led to the signing of the Zurich protocols, in fact, aimed to undermine the Azerbaijani-Turkish strategic alliance. No matter how ingenious Armenians considered themselves, this political game was a failure due to also sharp reaction of Baku and Turkish public’s rejection of policies that could harm interests of fraternal Azerbaijan.

After a little hesitation Gul-Erdogan government took a principled stand and, despite the insistent "advice" of Washington, Brussels and Moscow not to link these two issues, it announced that it will not normalize relations and reopen border with Armenia without progress in the Karabakh conflict settlement. Statements claiming that the United States will recognize "genocide of 1915” proved to be a bluff, nothing more. Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan’s move to remove the Zurich protocols from the agenda of the Parliament testified to failure of his policies and an attempt to mitigate internal criticism.

Moreover, instead of dividends, Serzh Sargsyan would better estimate extent of losses from the process. For starters, thanks to competent diplomatic game, Ankara gained a voice in the process of peaceful settlement of Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh.

Yerevan's refusing to recognize Turkey in this role makes little difference. Unlike other members of the Minsk Group, Ankara has been actively engaged in dialogue on this issue with the U.S., France and Russia. President Dmitry Medvedev, the leader of the country, which is the priority partner and ally of Armenia, has publicly acknowledged Turkey’s role in the Karabakh conflict during his recent visit to the country.  

The time-tested strategic partnership between Azerbaijan and Turkey has become more stable. Complicated issues related to gas prices and transit tariffs through Turkey’s territory have almost been addressed.

The Turkish government also demonstrably strengthens political and military cooperation with Azerbaijan. The two countries will also cooperate in defense industry to manufacture many types of military equipment, as well as to ensure free supplies of Turkish modern weapons, including helicopter gunships.  

Yerevan’s attempt to strengthen its stance in talks by raising the issue of Nakhchivan in the media in a provocative way met with a response from Azerbaijan and Turkey. Chairman of the Supreme Majlis of the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic Vasif Talibov was invited on an official visit to Turkey, where he was received by top officials like President Abdullah Gul, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, as well as by Bashbug, Chief of Staffs of the Armed Forces of Turkey.

Simultaneously, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu publicly reminded that Ankara's obligations in respect of Nakhchivan are fully in force in accordance with the Treaty of Kars. So, it is possible that Turkish military brigade will be deployed in Nakhchivan at some point in response to a policy of Armenian claims to Azerbaijani lands.

Obviously, impressive development of Russian-Turkish relations, which reached the level of strategic partnership as a result of intensive political dialogue in recent years, also promises nothing pleasant for Yerevan. By their excessive claims and aggressive behaviour, Armenians do not only isolate themselves from the regional projects, but also pose risks for large-scale projects identified by the recent agreements between Ankara and Moscow. Azerbaijan, by contrast, may well enter these agreements as a third party.

Ongoing events in Yerevan create an atmosphere close to shock. It realizes that it will be difficult to persistently decline Moscow’s "advice" to be more constructive in Karabakh talks. Mutually exclusive tactical games that suggest alliance with Iran and gaining support from the United States as suggested by Armenian media in defiance of Russia and Turkey are nothing but political science fiction.

The most that Armenians can achieve is to replace 5 +2 scheme of the liberation of occupied Azerbaijani with even a fractional scheme like 2 +3 +2. Sargsyan still has an opportunity to ask for external political support to maintain his power and additional financial investments in moribund Armenian economy.

But all this will happen provided that the authorities will not be stubborn too long. Otherwise, someone will certainly replace them. Ex-President Levon Ter-Petrosian paid two-day visit to the U.S. to explore atmosphere in the influential Armenian diaspora and authorities in Washington. The Russian position will be made clear for ruling elite in Armenia during the expected visit of President Dmitry Medvedev.

Eternal historic moaning and excessive territorial claims begins to irritate great powers. It is one thing to use Armenia and its ambitions as a tool for its foreign policy. It is quite another thing when this "outpost" tries to impose its own vision and interests on its patrons. Armenians need to be explained diplomatically, but clearly that continued disruptive stubbornness only increase bitterness of disappointment and loss. It will become clear whether they will understand it at a trilateral meeting of foreign ministers of Russia, Armenia and Azerbaijan in early June.

Rasim Musabayov
Azerbaijani political expert


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