About us   Editorial Board   Advisory Board   Subscribe   Contact us  
 


CAUCASUS UPDATE

In this section, we publish the weekly analysis of the major events taking place in the Caucasus and beyond. The Caucasus Update is written by our Senior Editor Alexander Jackson. Click here to subscribe.

Turkey, Armenia and Azerbaijan: Where Next?, CU Issue 51, October 19, 2009

The signing of the Turkish-Armenian protocols in Geneva on October 10 was viewed as a success, with only the awkward matter of ratifying the protocols in the parliaments preventing the opening of the ‘last closed border in Europe’. There has been little consideration of the implications of the protocol signing.

The Turkish-Armenian thaw has the potential to seriously disturb the political dynamics of the South Caucasus. Both Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan have made serious gambles on the thaw, and the consequences may be unpredictable.

President Sarkisian’s challenge is domestic. Although the diaspora continue to oppose reconciliation, the more serious risk comes from the political opposition: ex-President Levon Ter-Petrosian’s Armenian National Congress (ANC), the nationalist Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF), and the Heritage Party.

The opposition cannot challenge the ratification in parliament, since the ruling coalition dominates the legislature. Any challenge would have to be made, as so often in Armenian politics, on the streets. Anything could happen in such a volatile context, and a violent revolution is not unforeseeable if a cycle of escalation begins.

However, the government has calculated that the mutual distrust between the three opposition parties will prevent them from unifying to challenge the protocols. The ARF loathes Levon Ter-Petrosian, who banned them in 1994 during his presidency: a speaker at a recent ARF rally spent much of his speech attacking Mr Ter-Petrosian rather than the government (RFE/RL, October 16). Both the ARF and Heritage fear that Mr Ter-Petrosian’s opposition to the government is tactical. Despite recent calls by the ANC for President Sarkisian to resign, the other parties suspect that the ex-President supports the thaw and simply seeks to gain power (Tert.am, October 14).

The ARF, apparently playing a long game, are not calling for the President’s resignation – yet. They are calling for a popular movement to develop, allying with Heritage, and are insisting that their struggle will be fought through constitutional and legal means. This seems to be a tactical move to prevent alienating ordinary Armenians through revolutionary rhetoric.

Unless the ARF-Heritage movement can ally with the popular Mr Ter-Petrosian, they will not be able to generate sufficient support for a broad anti-government movement. Factional infighting will allow the government to sit tight and push the protocols through parliament. However, opposition to the protocols will grow as time passes – and there is no guarantee that they will be ratified soon.

This is because of Turkey’s challenge: reconciling public statements about the need for progress on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict with its clear desire to ratify the protocols. The ruling AKP party had apparently gambled that they could force concessions from Armenia in the run-up to the signing ceremony. The linkage of the Turkish-Armenian thaw and progress on Nagorno-Karabakh had been explicitly made by the Turkish government, which insisted that one could not take place without the other (Today.az, October 12). But time is running out, and there has been no agreement between Azerbaijan and Armenia.

Until an agreement is made, ratifying the protocols would be seen by Azerbaijan, and by many Turks, as a serious betrayal. Intensive lobbying by Azerbaijani political groups in Turkey is creating serious momentum against ratification. President Sargsyan seems to be betting that under the pressure from the West (US President Obama already had a lengthy phone call with President Gul and sent an invitation to Prime Minister Erdogan to visit US on Oct. 29, Today’s Zaman) Turkey will be obliged to ratify the protocols regardless of progress on Nagorno-Karabakh.

Azerbaijan is making its fury increasingly clear. An ominous warning from the Foreign Ministry that the signing “calls into question the architecture of regional peace and security” was followed by a statement from President Aliyev that “the war is not over yet” and that “no problem in the region – political, diplomatic, economic, energy, transport – can be solved without Azerbaijan’s participation” (APA, October 17).

The significance of this statement was made clear in the same cabinet meeting, when President Aliyev launched a scathing attack on Turkey’s “unacceptable” price demands for the sale and transit of Azerbaijan’s gas (RFE/RL, October 17). He said that selling gas to Turkey at a third of the market price was illogical, and threatened to prioritise gas sales to Russia. Just days earlier, Azerbaijan signed a deal with Russia’s Gazprom (UPI, October 16). The contract formalised agreements made earlier in the year and which envisions the sale of 500 million m3 of Azerbaijan’s gas to Gazprom in 2010.         

Clearly, Baku is threatening to cease cooperating with Turkey on oil and gas transit, crippling its plans to become a regional energy hub. This could also be a fatal blow to the Nabucco project to bring Eurasian gas to the heart of Europe. Bypassing Turkey, Azerbaijan could send its gas to Russia, to Georgia’s Black Sea ports (and on to Europe), or to Iran, as was contemplated by President Aliyev in the same meeting. Any or all of these options would reduce the need for Nabucco.

More significantly, they would reduce Azerbaijan’s ties to the West. The Georgian option, the only route which would continue to link Baku with Europe, is impractical and costly. Sending gas to either Russia or Iran would tie Azerbaijan into a close relationship with those states. In particular, Moscow would be eager to reassert influence in the South Caucasus as its alliance with Yerevan loses focus. The EU, and the US, would lose traction in Azerbaijan even as they gain it in Armenia. For the purposes of energy security and geopolitics, this would be a questionable trade.

The next few months will be fraught with difficulties, as regional states attempt to untangle the Caucasian knot. If Turkey ratifies the protocols without progress on Nagorno-Karabakh, Azerbaijan will almost certainly suspend their alliance. Military tensions between Armenia and Azerbaijan will rise. Nabucco will become even less likely and Western influence in the Caspian region will decrease even further.



"Turkey, Armenia and Azerbaijan: Where Next?, CU Issue 51, October 19, 2009" | 0 comments
The comments are owned by the poster. We aren't responsible for their content.
PREVIOUS ISSUES

  Caspian Compromise Backfires for Russia and Iran, CU Issue 83, November 24, 2010
  Turkey in a Tight Spot on Missile Defense, CU Issue 82, November 11, 2010
  The OSCE and Kyrgyzstan’s Election, CU Issue 81, October 30, 2010
  Unblocking the US-Azerbaijan Relationship, CU Issue 80, October 07, 2010
  Nabucco Pipeline: Quo Vadis?, CU Issue 79, September 30, 2010
  Russia tightens its grip in the South Caucasus, CU Issue 78, August 23, 2010
  Armenian Politics: Rigidity Versus Flexibility, CU Issue 77, August 10, 2010
  Russia and Georgia: Ready To Talk?, CU Issue 76, July 21, 2010
  Can the US walk and chew gum at the same time?, CU Issue 75, July 9, 2010
  The Kyrgyzstan Crisis – A Qualified Success for Turkish Diplomacy?, CU Issue 74, June 24, 2010
  Brussels downgrades the Caucasus, CU Issue 73, June 07, 2010
  NATO’s New Strategic Concept and the Caspian Region, CU Issue 72, June 01, 2010
  Joe Biden and European Security, CU Issue 71, May 13, 2010
  Behind the US-Azerbaijan row, CU Issue 70, May 6, 2010
  Turkey and Iran: The risks of failure, CU Issue 69, April 30, 2010
  Kazakhstan, the OSCE, and the crisis in Kyrgyzstan, CU Issue 68, April 19, 2010
  The Implications of the Moscow Bombings, CU Issue 67, April 12, 2010
  Iran Manoeuvres for a role in Karabakh, CU Issue 66, April 5, 2010
  The EU and Abkhazia: Between a rock and a hard place, CU Issue 65, March 16, 2010
  Fallout from the US ‘Genocide’ vote, CU Issue 64, March 9, 2010
  Ukraine's elections and future of GUAM, CU Issue 63, February 10, 2010
  Less Democracy, More Security: Kazakhstan and the OSCE, CU Issue 62, January 18, 2010
  Tackling the North Caucasus Insurgency: Development or Rhetoric?, CU Issue 61, January 11, 2010
  The Caspian Region in 2010, CU Issue 60, January 4, 2010
  The Caspian Region in 2010, CU Issue 59, December 31, 2009
  The Turkmenistan-China Pipeline Changes the Energy Balance, CU Issue 58, December 21, 2009
  Russia’s European Security Treaty, CU Issue 57, December 7, 2009
  The ‘Kidnapping War’ in Georgia and its Implications, CU Issue 56, December 3, 2009
  Azerbaijan Shifts its Energy Priorities, CU Issue 55, November 23, 2009
  The South Caucasian States and Afghanistan, CU Issue 54, November 11, 2009
  Is Turkey turning East?, CU Issue 53, November 2, 2009
  What is Russia’s Gameplan for Iran?, CU Issue 52, October 26, 2009
  Turkey, Armenia and Azerbaijan: Where Next?, CU Issue 51, October 19, 2009
  The Armenians of Georgia: A New Flashpoint in the Caucasus?, CU Issue 50, October 12, 2009
  Turkey’s EU Membership: Will The ‘Armenian Opening’ Help?, CU Issue 49, October 5, 2009
  The Missile Defence Shift: Implications for the Caucasus, CU Issue 48, September 22, 2009
  Rising Tensions in the Black Sea , CU Issue 47, September 14, 2009
  Armenia, Turkey, and Azerbaijan: The Clock Is Ticking, CU Issue 46, September 7, 2009
  The Battle of the Bases in Central Asia, CU Issue 45, August 31, 2009
  Russia, Israel, and the S-300s, CU Issue 44, August 24, 2009
  The motivations behind Turkey's 'Kurdish Initiative', CU Issue 43, August 17, 2009
  The Implications of the Turkmenistan-Azerbaijan Dispute, CU Issue 42, August 10, 2009
  What has changed since the August war?, CU Issue 41, August 3, 2009
  The Internal Dynamics of Armenia’s Karabakh Policy, CU Issue 40, July 20, 2009
  Gazprom’s Baku Triumph, CU Issue 39, July 06, 2009
  Ingushetia: The New Chechnya?, CU Issue 38, June 29, 2009
  Georgias Economy - A Matter for Diplomats, CU Issue 37, June 22, 2009
  ‘Progress’ In The Nagorno-Karabakh Peace Process, CU Issue 36, June 08, 2009
  Iran's Azerbaijanis and the presidential election, CU Issue 35, June 01, 2009
  Nabucco and South Stream - The Race Heats Up, CU Issue 34, May 25, 2009
  China and Central Asia, CU Issue 33, May 19, 2009
  Russia, Georgia, and NATO - A Bad Week, CU Issue 32, May 11, 2009
  The Obama Administration’s Emerging Caucasus Policy, CU Issue 31, April 27, 2009
  Integration and Division in the Caspian Sea, CU Issue 30, April 20, 2009
  The Turkish-Armenian Rapprochement - Implications for the South Caucasus, CU Issue 29, April 13, 2009
  Turkey's local elections and Armenian issue, CU Issue 28, April 6, 2009
  Is There Life Left In The Nabucco Project?, CU Issue 27, March 30, 2009
  Problems and Prospects for Russian Military Reform, CU Issue 26, March 23, 2009
  Russia and Georgia: Not back to war, CU Issue 25, March 16, 2009
  Armenia: Heading towards crisis?, CU Issue 24, March 9, 2009
  Drug trafficking in the Caucasus, CU Issue 23, February 23, 2009
  Russian-led military block: A real counterweight to NATO?, CU Issue 22, February 16, 2009
  Are the International Missions in Georgia still relevant?, CU Issue 21, February 9, 2009
  Israel and Azerbaijan: Baku’s Balancing Act, CU Issue 20, February 2, 2009
  The North Caucasus in 2009: A Bleak Forecast, CU Issue 19, January 26, 2009
  The Military Balance in Nagorno-Karabakh, CU Issue 18, January 19, 2009
  Russia, Iran, and Barack Obama in 2009, Part II, CU Issue 17, January 12, 2009
  Looking forward to 2009 in the Caucasus and beyond, Part I, CU Issue 16, January 5, 2009
  The opportunities and the risks of NATO’s new supply routes, CU Issue 15, December 22, 2008
  The Black Sea Ambitions of Armenia, CU Issue 14, December 15, 2008
  Another Small Step for Nabucco, CU Issue 13, December 8, 2008
  Will Saakashvili survive politically?, CU Issue 12, December 1, 2008
  The latest fashion: conflict mediation, CU Issue 11, November 24, 2008
  The Baku Energy Summit, CU Issue 10, November 17, 2008
  Obama and the Caucasus, CU Issue 9, November 10, 2008
  Kazakhstan's oil options, CU Issue 8, November 3, 2008
  Is the Minsk Group being sidelined?, CU Issue 7, October 27, 2008
  Gas and oil developments in the Caspian region, CU Issue 6, October 20, 2008
  Where next for the Georgian peace process?, CU Issue 5, October 8, 2008
  Unrest in the North Caucasus, CU Issue 4, September 29, 2008
  Saakashvili's future, CU Issue 3, September 22, 2008
  Iran after the Georgian War, CU Issue 2, September 15, 2008
  Football diplomacy, CU Issue 1, September 8, 2008
       
 
  © 2006-2010 CRIA
  All rights reserved

Editorial Board
Advisory Board
Our Authors

Back Issues
Caucasus Update
Current Issue

Contact Us
Subscribe
Join us on Facebook