By Edmond Azadian
Azerbaijan is the cornerstone of Armenia’s relations with Turkey.
As long as the Karabagh issue is not settled with Azerbaijan, it seems that there will be no improvement in the relations between Armenia and Turkey.
Since 1994 when a tenuous cease fire regime was established through the efforts of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Minsk group-co-chaired by the US, France, and Russia has been handling the issue. On the surface it seems that all co-chairmen are on the same page, but since no solution has been found yet, it seems clear that the parties involved have conflicting interests and agendas.
Thus far the proposed legal framework is defined under Madrid principles, which in turn call for self-determination within the concept of territorial integrity of Azerbaijan. Even friendly countries, like Russia and Iran have been endorsing the principle of territorial integrity. The position of the Armenian side is that Karabagh attained its independence through the same process that Azerbaijan implemented using the provisions of the Soviet constitution extent at the time. Also the historic fact is that Karabagh has never been within the territory of Azerbaijan, even during the Soviet era. It has been an autonomous oblast, under the administrative jurisdiction of Azerbaijan, very much like the autonomous Republic of Nakhichivan.
Based on the principle of territorial integrity, Azerbaijan was able to pass four resolutions maligning Armenia at the United Nations Security Council through Ankara’s leadership and with the solidarity of Islamic states.
The ceasefire on the contact line is violated on a daily basis and generic reprimands by the OSCE are directed to both parties, regardless of the facts on the ground.
Azerbaijan has been threatening to solve the conflict by force, and President Aliyev does not seem to be satisfied by the return of Karabagh and seven adjoining regions to Azerbaijan. He even claims that the territory of the Armenian Republic has been historic Azeri land.
The recent escalation was indicative of Baku’s aggressive intentions. Every time Azerbaijan moves closer to Moscow, Ankara offers a bait by using the Armenian factor.
When Georgia attained its independence, there were 400,000 Armenians living in its territory, half of that number in the historic Armenian region of Javakhk. The central governments in Tbilisi have tried to depopulate the Armenian enclave through direct and indirect policies. At one point the Metzkhet Turks were invited back from Central Asia to settle in Javakhk. Also economic deprivation and political repression were used to force Armenians to abandon their historic territory.
During President Mikhail Saakashvili’s administration, the same reckless policy resulted in the loss of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
The Tbilisi government has colluded with Turkey and Azerbaijan to isolate Armenia in all economic development projects. Energy pipelines and railway systems have been designed to bypass Armenia.
Georgia has made its intensions very clear: it wants to join NATO. But the West has been moving cautiously so as not to aggravate matters any further with Russia.
As a first step, the Georgian government has decided to host a Turkish military base on its territory. That plan will benefit Turkey more than the West, promoting its pan-Ottomanist designs.
Turkish money has inundated Georgia; especially as the region of Ajaria is under the indirect control of Turkey.
Recently Javakhk political activist Vahakn Chakhalyan issued an appeal under the title “No to the Turkification of Georgia.”
Georgia is Armenia’s main viable economic outlet to the world, the government in Armenia is forced to put up with all political indignities.
Iran is the only country with whom Armenia does not have any territorial dispute. With the lifting of the sanctions, some economic plans have been reactivated: a hydroelectric dam and the railway system, the latter to be financed by China.
During the Elchibey administration, the Baku government threatened to conquer and integrate Northern Azerbaijan in Iran with its own territory. It is estimated that 25-30 million Azeris live in Iranian Azerbaijan. That plan also was very handy for the West, which would benefit from the partition of a powerful Iran.
Israel and the West have long been planning to use Azerbaijan’s territory as a launching pad for an attack against Iran. But the recent nuclear deal and Iran’s strategic partnership with Russia have disrupted the implementation of that plan.
At this time, Armenia is looking to improve its economic ties with Iran. Iran-Azerbaijan relations have always a potential of flare up, especially when Baku keeps harping on the “one nation two states” political formula with Turkey.
The Caspian basin is also a bone of contention between Iran and Azerbaijan. Russia is also a party to that conflict. An unresolved issue is the status of the Caspian Sea; whether it is a lake or sea, so that international law can be fashioned accordingly. Once Azerbaijan began exploring gas deposits under uncharted waters of the Caspian Sea, Iran sent its warships to halt the explorations.
Armenian-Iranian relations do not have such underlying tensions.
Caught in the Russian sphere, Armenia will face all the dangers that threaten Russia’s interests in the region. Although Armenia suffers for the consequences of it alliance with Russia, the economic benefits are not commensurate with the risks. The major benefit is Armenia’s security in that dangerous neighborhood.
At this time, Armenia faces a grave situation of losing the critical mass of its population. The number-one priority is to improve the plight of the common citizens, which in turn will stir hope for the future. During the first year of independence, despite the darkness, lack of heat and bread, there was fervent hope for the future. It seems as if hope disappeared when the lights were turned on.
Only the improvement of the lives of people there can stop the flow of emigration and rekindle the hope for a better future.