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Key Economic Data 
 
  2003 2002 2001 Ranking(2003)
GDP
Millions of US $ 237,972 182,848 147,700 21
         
GNI per capita
 US $ 2,790 2,500 2,530 92
Ranking is given out of 208 nations - (data from the World Bank)

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Update No: 151 - (16/12/09)

The clutch of the past
It looked back in October as if an historic deal was being struck between Armenia and Turkey. These two have been at loggerheads for decades.

The Armenians are in mind of 1915, when a million and a half or more of them died at the hands of the Turks. This constituted in their view an act of genocide. Hitler was wont to say: "Who cares now about the Armenian genocide?"

Well plenty of people, as a matter of fact. The Armenians in Armenia for a start. But the even more numerous Armenians in the diaspora, notably in the US and France. One can count in their many sympathisers.

The break-up of the Soviet Union was a notoriously disturbing affair, especially in the turbulent Caucasus. The Armenians grabbed back their enclave in Azerbaijan, Nagorno-Karabakh, and an Azeri swathe of land, the Lachin corridor, between it and Armenia . One and a half million Azeris were made homeless. At least they did not actually die, as did the Armenians at Turkish hands in 1915. But the comparison is embarrassing all the same.

Azerbaijan and Turkey imposed a trade embargo on Armenia. It is still in force, until the Armenians vacate the disputed lands in question, allowing a return of the dispossessed.

The historic deal
Turkish and Armenian foreign ministers on October 10 signed a set of agreements under which Ankara and Yerevan should set up normal diplomatic relations and reopen their land border. The deal, if ratified by the parliaments of the two neighbours, would effectively end decades of hostile relations.

But the Turkish and Armenian ratifications have not come yet.

A failure to implement the Ankara-Yerevan normalisation deal will likely strengthen ‘genocide bills’ in US Congress. This could bedevil relations all round for years to come.

Erdogan and Obama in Washington
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's talks with U.S. President Barack Obama at the White House in December have mostly been viewed as a success by analysts. However, an uphill reconciliation process between Turkey and Armenia may be the sign of a creeping deterioration in U.S.-Turkish ties this year.

“I congratulated the prime minister on some courageous steps he has taken around the issue of normalising Turkish-Armenian relations, and encouraged him to continue to move forward along this path,” Obama told reporters in a joint statement with Erdoğan at the White House on December 7. In a letter to some major Armenian-American groups last week, Obama also said, “Normalisation between Armenia and Turkey should move forward without preconditions and within a reasonable timeframe.”

The issue at the root of the problem is the unresolved Nagorno-Karabakh conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan, Turkey's close friend and ally.

Azerbaijani-Armenian dispute
Erdoğan told Obama that reopening the border before progress is achieved in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict would ruin Turkey's ties with Azerbaijan and be viewed as completely unacceptable to Turkish voters.

“The normalisation process between Turkey and Armenia is very much related to these issues (of improvement of the Armenian-Azerbaijani ties),” Erdoğan told reporters at the White House.

His remarks were seen by some that the Turkish parliament would most probably not ratify any normalisation deal with Armenia before strong signs are observed for an end to the Armenian occupation of Azerbaijani lands.

But even at a time when Washington is pushing for the normalisation process to be implemented “without preconditions and within a reasonable timeframe,” analysts agree that strong progress toward putting an end to the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute seems unlikely, at least in the short term. These all point to a potential stall in the Turkey-Armenia reconciliation process.

“In addition to escalating his Armenian genocide denial demands, Erdoğan also made clear that his government would not respect either of the two U.S. priorities for Turkey-Armenia normalisation: no preconditions and a reasonable timeframe,” the Armenian National Committee of America, or ANCA, the largest Armenian-American group, said in a statement on December 8.

Pending genocide recognition bills
ANCA and other Armenian-American organizations are seeking formal U.S. recognition of World War I-era deaths of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire as “genocide.” They are also staunchly against a compromise on Nagorno-Karabakh.

With the probable failure of the Turkey-Armenia normalisation process, the Armenian-American groups and their congressional backers are planning to re-launch a strong campaign for the passage of two “genocide” resolutions pending in the House of Representatives and the Senate, the lower and upper chambers of Congress, respectively.

Important congressional elections will take place in November 2010, with the whole 435-member House and about one third of the 100-member Senate to be renewed. And election years are times when the influence of ethnic and interest lobbies are the strongest in U.S. politics.

Obama, who as a candidate had pledged to recognize the Armenian killings as “genocide,” if elected president during last year's election campaign, reversed his position as president this year and fully backed the Ankara-Yerevan normalisation process, saying he would refrain from any move that would jeopardize the process. The Obama administration is expected to continue to oppose congressional “genocide” recognition resolutions.

But in a year of election-related uncertainties in 2010, if such a bill, by any chance, is passed by either the House or the Senate, the Ankara-Yerevan normalisation deal would be imperiled and U.S.-Turkish relations could suffer in a major and lasting way, as Turkey has already warned.

                                              ******

Actually Turkey's most important geopolitical partner is not the US, but the European Union (EU), which it has aspired to join. But there are vast difficulties here, stemming from the past too.

They are being exploited to the hilt by those in the EU opposed to Turkish entry.

The Cyprus imbroglio
Cyprus has been divided since 1974 when Turkey occupied the north in response to an Athens-engineered coup in Nicosia aimed at uniting the island with Greece.

Turkey is bitter that the Greek Cypriots, whose government is the island's internationally-recognised administration, were admitted into the EU in 2004 despite voting down a UN peace plan, while the Turkish Cypriots -- who gave the plan overwhelmingly support -- were left out in the cold.

The Greek line on Cyprus remains the EU policy on the subject. European foreign ministers criticised Turkey on December 8 for failing to deal normally with Cyprus and opted to keep the brakes on Ankara's attempt to join the EU.

While Turkey avoided any fresh sanctions and the EU nations welcomed progress on some minority issues, there was overall disappointment at Ankara's failure to treat EU nation Cyprus in a "good neighbourly" way.

The statement came after Turkey missed an EU deadline to do something about the Cyprus problem. The EU text, hammered out during two days of talks between the ministers, left little doubt that the 2006 decision to freeze parts of the accession talks with Turkey could be beefed up if progress is not forthcoming.

That year the 27 EU nations froze eight of the 35 policy chapters which each EU candidate nation must successfully negotiate prior to membership over Turkey's failure to open its ports and airports to Cyprus. Turkey refuses to do so arguing that the European Union has failed to keep its promises to ease the international isolation of the breakaway Turkish Cypriots.

Since starting EU membership negotiations in 2005, Ankara has opened talks only in 11 of the 35 policy areas.

The process has also been slowed down by opposition from some EU members, notably France and Germany, which argue that the populous and relatively poor Muslim-majority country should be given a special status rather than membership.

The EU foreign ministers did welcome progress by Ankara in other important areas, including the judiciary, civil-military relations and cultural rights. In particular, moves in favour of the key Kurdish minority issue "should lead to concrete measures guaranteeing all Turkish citizens full rights and freedoms", they said.

The message to Turkey "strikes the right balance", between acknowledging progress and criticising failures, said EU Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn, an emollient figure by profession. He added that a new policy chapter, on the environment, should be opened shortly, showing that "the EU accession process... is on track".

After all, the EU needs Turkey for more reasons than one, not least energy supply. Turkey is important to the European Union as a partner in the ambitious Nabucco gas pipeline scheme, to run from the Caspian Sea to Europe.

The Russian angle
If the US is a key player here, and the EU too, so is Russia!
There is unease in Europe over Ankara's recent rapprochement with Moscow. The Russians and Turks have recently signed several cooperation deals in the energy sector and also plan to hold joint ministerial meetings.

The setting up of a Russian-Turkish "privileged partnership" would be seen in some quarters as a response to the lukewarm attitude of the Europeans.

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