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Thaw Praised in Enclave

Armenians in Karabakh welcome move on Turkey-Armenia ties.
By Karine Ohanian
Politicians in Nagorny Karabakh have given a cautious welcome to the thaw in Armenian-Turkish relations, especially since the status of their own self-declared state was not included in the published “protocols”.



Ankara and Yerevan announced on the last day of August that, with two protocols, they had agreed the terms under which diplomatic relations between them could be restored, and the border opened, although the precise details of the agreement have not been released.



“We are closely following Armenian-Turkish relations, or more accurately, the true desire of Armenia to create these relations,” said Bako Sahakian, president of Nagorny Karabakh.



Turkish politicians had previously linked a restoration of ties to a resolution of the status of Nagorny Karabakh, which has declared independence but is internationally considered a part of Azerbaijan, a close ally of Turkey. Karabakh’s Armenian inhabitants have governed themselves independently since Baku’s troops were driven out in the early 1990s, and Sahakian said he was still concerned by Turkey’s position.



“This cannot inspire much hope for the creation of honest and true relations,” he said.



Other figures believed the thaw could mean Ankara had abandoned its insistence on Karabakh being handed back to Baku’s control.



“An important positive element of the protocol is the lack of a direct connection between the normalisation of Armenian-Turkish relations and the regulation of the Nagorny Karabakh conflict, and the clear separation of these two conflicts,” Masis Mailian, a former candidate for the presidency and the current chairman of the Civic Council for Foreign Policy and Security, told IWPR.



“Azerbaijan, as a result of the Armenian-Turkish process, will become more compliant in the Karabakh talks process, which will allow a peace deal to be reached more quickly.”



Karabakh’s leaders will be closely watching the next six weeks, when the protocols will be discussed in the two countries, then submitted to the parliaments for approval. The removal of Karabakh from the discussions, as well as the lack of a mention of the Armenian genocide question has made the documents more likely to be accepted. At least half a million Armenians died when they were driven out of their homes in Ottoman Turkey in 1915 but Turkey denies it was genocide.



“It is currently too early to say what this possible Armenia-Turkey agreement could give to the Karabakh regulation process; it all depends on geopolitical developments. I welcome this thaw, but stress that attempts to connect Armenian-Turkish relations with regulating Karabakh-Azerbaijan are unacceptable. This cannot be done at the cost of Karabakh or the genocide,” said David Babaian, head of the president’s information service.



Karine Ohanian is a freelance journalist and a member of IWPR’s EU-funded Cross Caucasus Journalism Network.

The terminology used in this report was chosen by the editors.

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