Books on Armenia
Update No: 337 -
normalisation of ties with Turkey
Armenian-Turkish relations are about as
prickly and tricky as you can get.
Armenia's ruling coalition has said it is
halting the ratification in parliament of
landmark accords on normalising relations
with Turkey. It said it was because of
Turkey's refusal to "ratify the protocols
without preconditions", chiefly over the
enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh, the Armenian
hold-out in Azerbaijan.
Actually it is about something even more
fundamental, an event that took place 95-6
years ago. The Turks committed a great
crime. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians
died in 1915, when they were deported en
masse from eastern Anatolia by the Ottoman
Empire. They were killed by troops or died
from starvation and disease.
Armenia wants Turkey to recognise the
killings as an act of genocide, but
successive Turkish governments have
refused to do so. They are endorsing the
view of a man they wisely refrained from
allying themselves with in the Second
World War, Adolf Hitler: "who now
remembers the Armenian genocide?"
Well, thanks not least to Hitler himself,
people do and it continues to plague
normalisation of relationships between
The countries signed a historic deal in
2009 to re-establish diplomatic ties. This
seemed to offer a way forward, following a
century of hostility after World War One.
In October last year, Turkey and Armenia
signed a historic accord normalising
relations despite differences over the
What the aftermath? What is next?
Diplomatic moves to normalise relations
have faltered recently.
The Armenian coalition decided to halt the
ratification process of the accord signed
in October last year after Turkish Prime
Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said it
would depend on a peace deal over
Nagorno-Karabakh, the Armenian statement
"Considering the Turkish side's refusal to
fulfil the requirement to ratify the
accord without preconditions in a
reasonable time, making the continuation
of the ratification process in the
national parliament pointless, we consider
it necessary to suspend this process," the
statement said. "The political majority in
the national assembly considers statements
from the Turkish side in recent days as
unacceptable, specifically those by Prime
Minister Erdogan, who has again made the
ratification of the Armenia-Turkish
protocols by the Turkish parliament
directly dependent on a resolution over
Nagorno-Karabakh," it said.
Turkey closed its border with Armenia in
1993 to protest against Armenia's war with
its neighbour Azerbaijan over the enclave,
which is within Azerbaijan but under the
control of ethnic Armenian forces.
World Interfaith Summit in Baku
The Azeris hosted a World Interfaith
Summit in Baku in late April, which may
have a bearing on resolution of the
Nagorno-Karabakh problem. Largely under
the inspiration of Kyrill 1, Patriarch of
the Russian Orthodox Church, the religious
leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan were
It was the first visit to Baku of
Catholicos Garegin II, the head of the
Armenian Apostolic Church. He was
introduced to Azerbaijan's Muslim leader,
Sheikh-un-Islam Allahshukur Pashazade and
they had a 90-minute talk. He then met
President Ilham Aliyev for a 60-minute
talk. Very tight security was naturally
maintained and there were no press
conferences. But this sort of quiet
diplomacy can yield dividends over time.
One concrete result is that it has been
agreed to restore an Armenian church, ‘St
Gregory the Illuminator’, hit by fire
twenty years ago. Another is that a mosque
in Susha in the enclave will be restored
after wartime damage. These gestures of
good will may yet lead somewhere.
Turn-around in the economy
The Armenian economy was devastated by the
1988-94 war and never properly recovered.
It was devastated again by the global
financial crisis of late, falling by 14%
But it is picking up again this year,
albeit slowly. GDP growth is estimated to
fall in the 3-5% range this year. But it
will not really recover until the world
economy does itself. And with the present
woes of Greece, Spain and others, that
does not look like any time soon.