February 22, 2011 - 17:59 AMT
American diplomats visit Yerevan: Nagorno-Karabakh, Armenian-Turkish relations or something else?
It’s too difficult to speak the same language with Turkey and Azerbaijan, as these countries lay down absolutely unacceptable conditions in the issue of Nagorno-Karabakh.
Accidentally or not, after the visit of senior American diplomats in the person of James B. Steinberg and Philip Gordon, President of Armenia Serzh Sargsyan decided to leave for Saint Petersburg to meet with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev. You don’t have to be a prophet to understand that visits of the American diplomats are linked to the settlement of the Karabakh conflict, or rather, to its prevention from entering a military phase.

Events in the Middle East proved the U.S. inability to keep under control the situation in the Arab world, though until recently Washington used to be the guarantee of peace in the region. However, the developments show that not only America, but also Iran is unable to control Arab revolts. In this regard, there remains only the South Caucasus, where the U.S. can somehow influence the countries’ policy. But things are not so simple here, either. There is Russia, which considers the Caucasus to be the area of her vital interests and is unwilling to concede leadership yet. Whether the U.S. will be able to turn the tide depends on how she can help in resolving the Karabakh conflict. Let us repeat once again that there is nothing to be solved; Nagorno-Karabakh will never be returned to Azerbaijan, and politicians on both sides of the ocean are already talking of it. The thing is that Baku wouldn’t hear of it and considers the settlement of the Karabakh conflict right, only if this unrecognized but established state goes into the structure of Azerbaijan as autonomy. But, of course, this is impossible by definition.

Let us revert to the visit of Steinberg and Gordon. Apparently, in the South Caucasus there is only Armenia not fully influenced by the U.S., and in the words of Shura Balaganov, she must be “lured”. However, the situation is not so simple, as the views of part of the political establishment do not match with those of the authorities and people, who state briefly: “Leave us alone, we are friends with everybody”. Indeed, Armenia is trying not to spoil relations either with the neighbors or with Washington, Moscow, Brussels, as well as Georgia and Iran. However, it’s too difficult to speak the same language with Turkey and Azerbaijan, as these countries lay down absolutely unacceptable conditions in the issue of Nagorno-Karabakh.

Let us note that re-start of talks with Armenia is currently much more important for Turkey than the settlement of Karabakh conflict in favor of Baku. True or false, last week there were rumors that Russia might help in normalization of Armenian-Turkish relations. However, these rumors were denied by Moscow. “Russia is not going to mediate the Armenian-Turkish normalization. There are Protocols envisaging normalization of relations between the two countries and Russia’s representative was present at the signing ceremony in Zurich. Official Moscow in the person of the President, the Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister has repeatedly declared that the only way to normalize relations between Yerevan and Ankara is ratification of the Protocols by the two Parliaments,” a diplomatic source said.

Azerbaijani mass media spread information, which was later picked up by the Armenian press, according to which, Deputy Foreign Ministers of Russia and Turkey, Grigory Karasin and Feridun Siniroglu, discussed in Moscow the possibility of arranging a meeting between Armenian and Turkish diplomats. To this end, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin recently visited Yerevan, where he discussed the issue with the Armenian side. Declaredly, it is for this purpose that Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg is coming to Yerevan.

It’s natural that at official meetings in Yerevan U.S. diplomats should be discussing Armenian-Turkish relations; it is inevitable. But presently Washington faces much more serious problems than the relations between Armenia and Turkey. As we have mentioned, the Karabakh issue will be the basic one. It is quite clear that diplomats will not be able to arrive to any decision in Yerevan, as this problem can be solved only between Azerbaijan and Nagorno-Karabakh, with participation of Armenia. But the first step the players must take is to finally call a spade a spade: this is not the Nagorno-Karabakh or the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict. This is the Karabakh-Azerbaijani conflict and it can be resolved only when Stepanakert and Baku sit round the table of negotiations, with participation of the OSCE Minsk Group and Armenia.

Karine Ter-Sahakyan / PanARMENIAN News