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Georgia welcomes progress in Armenian-Turkish normalisation

By Temuri Kiguradze
Monday, October 12
The establishment of diplomatic relations between Armenia and Turkey is being evaluated in Georgia as a positive sign for the Caucasus as a whole.

The Turkish and Armenian Foreign Ministers signed protocols on the “development of bilateral relations” in Zurich on October 10, this event marking significant progress in the reestablishment of relations of two countries. The protocols say that the sides will open their mutual border, closed by Turkey in 1993, recognise each others’ territorial integrity and start holding political negotiations.

The signing of the agreements has already been called “historic” by the foreign media and been hailed by the international community as a step forward in the stabilisation of relations between the two countries. "I welcome the historic agreement to normalise relations between Turkey and Armenia, and commend the effort and political will both leaders have invested in overcoming differences and working towards a more secure and stable region, which is in all our interests," said OSCE Chairman-in-Office George Papandreou on October 11.

"There were concerns on both sides," stated U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who mediated the difficult negations between the two parties, "so there were several times when I said to all of the parties involved that this is too important, this has to be seen through, and you’ve come too far [to go back now]."

Georgian officials have also spoken about the positive aspect of the negotiations. “Georgia is interested in good and friendly relations existing between all our neighbours. We have the hope that the establishment of relations between Armenia and Turkey will stabilise the situation on the Caucasus and some progress will be reached on the issue of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict,” stated Georgian State Minister Temur Iakobashvili, speaking to The Messenger on October 11. He added that he had always thought that “the bad relations between Armenia and Turkey were an anomaly.”

The confrontation between Armenia and Turkey was created, among many other factors, by the efforts of Armenia to achieve global recognition of the humanitarian catastrophe in the Ottoman Empire in 1915 as genocide. Another issue is Turkey’s protest against the participation of Armenia in the Nagorno Karabakh war, which ended with Armenia occupying that region (as well as some others) although it is internationally recognised to be part of Azerbaijan. After the conflict Armenia was blockaded by Azerbaijan and Turkey.

"The normalisation of relations between Turkey and Armenia before the withdrawal of Armenian forces from occupied Azerbaijani territory is in direct contradiction to the interests of Azerbaijan and casts a shadow over the spirit of brotherly relations between Azerbaijan and Turkey, built on deep historical roots," the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry has said in a statement, commenting on the October 10 deal.

Former Georgian Ambassador to Armenia Revaz Gachechiladze notes that the process of rebuilding relations will not be as easy as it may seem. “This agreement has yet to be ratified by the Parliaments of both republics and here it may face serious difficulties. There are many nationalist political forces in Armenia that actively protest against any normalisation of relations. The same situation exists in Turkey,” Gachechiladze said, speaking to The Messenger on the night of the agreement’s signing.

Some Georgian analysts say that Tbilisi is not actually interested in the normalisation of Turkish-Armenian relations as it risks losing the economic benefits it gains by providing an economic corridor for blockaded Armenia. Georgian analyst on South Caucasus issues Irakli Chikhladze notes that the society should take a “deeper look” at the situation. Speaking to The Messenger Chikhladze noted that in Armenia nowadays “the greatest part of the economy and business is under Russian control.” “If and when the border with Turkey opens a lot of Turkish businessmen will be interested in creating new business projects in Armenia, which will ruin the Russian monopoly in the country and seriously harm its position in the South Caucasus as a whole as a new player - Turkey - appears in the region, and Georgia should be interested in these processes,” he concluded.