Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan once again found himself in the center of a multi-way intrigue. During an online press conference, he did not rule out the possibility of holding a personal meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. “There is no idea of a meeting with Erdogan, but if the negotiation process between [Armenian Special Representative] Ruben Rubinyan and his Turkish counterpart is successful and the process matures to this point, then, of course, high-level meetings should follow,” the prime minister said. – That is, if the process is successful, of course, my meeting with Erdogan will take place.”
Earlier, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu announced the appointment of former Ambassador to the United States Serdar Kilic as the Turkish special representative for reconciliation with Armenia. A few days later, the Armenian Foreign Ministry named the special representative of Yerevan – he became the Deputy Speaker of the Armenian Parliament Ruben Rubinyan. In this regard, our Turkish sources clarified that Cavusoglu’s statement was preceded by secret contacts between Ankara and Yerevan. But if this process was conducted and controlled by the Foreign Ministry on the part of Turkey, then “unnamed representatives” of Pashinyan’s party, and not diplomats, acted on the part of Armenia. This gave the Turks the feeling that Pashinyan and his inner circle were afraid of information leaks. Therefore, the very fact that it was the Turkish side that was the first to announce the decision to appoint special representatives at the talks on normalization of relations with Armenia is very indicative.
In this regard, we recall the September incident when Erdogan, before flying to the United States to participate in the 76th session of the UN General Assembly, said that Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili had conveyed to him Pashinyan’s proposal for a meeting. According to the President, “if this meeting takes place, Turkey will establish diplomatic relations (with Armenia — S.T.).” However, Erdogan stipulated the meeting with a condition: Yerevan should open the so-called Zangezur corridor between Azerbaijan and Nakhichevan. But the same Turkish sources specify that the president decided “not to act against Armenia bypassing Moscow” and decided to “highlight” the operation of Yerevan. A short time later, the press secretary of the Armenian Foreign Ministry Vahan Hunanyan “recovered”, saying that the Armenian side “during discussions with Russian colleagues informed about the readiness to normalize Armenian-Turkish relations.” Nevertheless, Moscow’s practical mediation efforts in this direction are not visible at the official level.
Now about other important details. The Turkish side has appointed the authoritative and influential Turkish diplomat Kilic as its special representative for the normalization of relations with Armenia. He is not only close to the Erdogan family, but has serious ties with the leaders of the Armenian diaspora in the United States. Some Western and Turkish media claim that Ankara coordinated the candidacy with the administration of US President Joe Biden, which indicates that Turkey is putting up high stakes in this game. As for Yerevan, the Deputy Speaker of the Parliament Rubinyan lived in Turkey for some time, where he did some research on grants from Turkish organizations. He is not a professional diplomat, and he has no experience as a negotiator, which makes many Armenian experts wonder about the reasons for Pashinyan’s choice “bypassing the candidacies of professional Armenian diplomats.”
On this occasion, the prime minister said at a press conference that “it is important for him that the negotiator is a member of the ruling political team” and “Rubinyan will not do all this alone, a team will be formed from our diplomatic corps that will carry out the whole process.” But the columnist of the Turkish edition of Haberturk, Cetiner Cetin, clarifies that “Kilic and Rubinyan will negotiate in a one-on-one format, then the information will be reported personally to Pashinyan, and only after that the working group and the secretariat will come into effect, which will work directly with the prime minister.” Yerevan says that this group will consist of Armenian diplomats, while Ankara believes that it “will mainly include persons who have ties with Turkey and will build diplomatic relations beyond the historical dimension, based on mutual interests.” At the same time, Cetin assumes a high level of negotiations on the issues under discussion, although Secretary of the Security Council Armen Grigoryan stated that “there is no Armenian-Turkish agenda at the moment.”
The restoration of diplomatic relations can be carried out in one step with the mutual consent of the parties. This is done through the exchange of notes, telegrams at the highest state level or between foreign ministers through the signing of an agreement. The first step to this is usually the recognition by one state of the other, which already exists between Turkey and Armenia. Other related issues or problems may be resolved or discussed with the participation of official representatives in a working manner. But in this case, the situation is somewhat different. “All the Armenian authorities have said that they are ready to normalize relations with Turkey without preconditions, which means that Turkey’s recognition of the Armenian Genocide has never been a precondition for the settlement of relations with Turkey, the opening of borders, this has never happened,” Pashinyan said at a press conference. —We have clearly formulated our approach to the international recognition of the Armenian Genocide in the government’s program.” At the same time, our Turkish sources claim that a three-stage roadmap will be developed in Ankara “by May 2022,” which will include requirements for Yerevan to “confirm in writing the rejection of claims to Western (Turkish) Armenia and a change of positions in the assessment of the events of 1915.”
And more. Ankara believes that a “major change of milestones” in relations with Yerevan “should not be expected before July, when the first steps in the implementation of the Zangezur Corridor project will be taken.” After the second Karabakh war, in the context of the stated intentions of the conflicting parties to work towards unblocking regional communication corridors with Turkey’s connection to them through Nakhichevan, the process of normalization of Armenia’s relations with Turkey and Azerbaijan looks natural and logical. Moreover, the “3+2” format (Russia, Turkey, Iran, Azerbaijan and Armenia) has started working, and the leaders of Azerbaijan and Armenia meet not only in the company of Russian President Vladimir Putin, but also European Council President Charles Michel and even French President Emmanuel Macron. But it is far from a fact that the “Pashinyan project”, focused on the future, will be successful for Armenians.
A fundamentally new geopolitical situation is emerging in Transcaucasia, when it is necessary to assess regional dynamics in a new way, taking into account the fact that the conjuncture will change rapidly. Pashinyan faces an uphill battle to preserve his national and international image, especially during the period of open and closed diplomacy. Meanwhile, when asked when the first meeting of the special representatives of Armenia and Turkey will take place, he replied that it has not been scheduled at the moment. According to him, “there will be no 2, 3, 4, 5 meetings, it will be a very long process.”