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Excerpts from Dr. Armen Ayvazyan's report at the Armenian Parliament on December 20, 2007
The incomprehensible direction of the Republic of Armenia Foreign Policy, its inconsistent and confused course is mostly conditioned by a huge conceptual mistake, that is, since acquiring independence, Armenia’s leadership has totally ignored the existence of the Armenian Question, misjudging the essence of that question and mistakenly believing in the possibility of circumventing it. Meanwhile, the strategic opponents of Armenia – Turkey and Azerbaijan, do not forget about it.
Is there presently an Armenian Question, and what is it? As in the past, so in the present the essence of The Armenian Question is the creation of viable political and territorial conditions for the Armenian people to live freely and independently on its native soil – the Armenian Highland. There is only one solution to the Armenian Question – the restoration of the Armenian statehood on at least such a substantial part of Armenia, which can provide for the safe and long term existence and development of the Armenian civilization. In other words, the Armenian Question is about the security of the Armenians, and requires the provision of two prerequisites: The first is the creation of a comprehensive and strong statehood; and the second is territorial guarantees fortifying the security and viability of that statehood.
In addition, securing only one of these preconditions is impossible without securing the other: neither the Armenian State is able to survive in the 29800 sq. km. of sharply vulnerable and, with its very defenselessness, “aggression-prone” borders of former Armenian Soviet Socialist Republic, nor will the existence of the Armenian nation be possible without the Armenian state.
Thus, the solution of the Armenian Question is by no means the international acknowledgement of the Armenian Genocide, as many people think through a misunderstanding and as Armenians’ false friends say. The Armenian Question is, first and foremost, a territorial question.
However, what is the condition of the Armenian Question at present? Today, as in the past, the existence of the Armenian nation and civilization is in danger because the territorial question has not been resolved. In the post-Soviet period Armenia again faces the question “to be or not to be.” Contemporary Armenia has been endangered by the collapse of the Soviet Empire and the ensuing expansionist encroachments and violent acts by Turkey and its ally Azerbaijan. The experience of the last decade and a half proved that Armenia can survive only thanks to its control over a territory of 42000 sq. km., with certain natural borders, including the Republic of Armenia and Artsakh, together with the liberated territory. This is the minimal territory that ensures Armenia’s security. The existence of the Armenian State may no longer be possible on a smaller territory.
This is the minimal territory that ensures Armenia’s security in the geopolitical, military and psychological clashes of world and regional powers. On the other hand, it should not to be ruled out that the hostile policies by Turkey and Azerbaijan, and the possible unleashing of war by the latter, will leave Armenia no choice other than to expand Armenian strategic control over its territories currently occupied by Azerbaijan, to the point where the enemy finally stops threatening Armenia and reconciles itself with the fact of Armenians having their own state on their native land.
As for the RA’s Foreign Policy, its foundations were formed in the early 1990s and, contrary to the common perceptions, have never been seriously reviewed and reconsidered. This statement of mine would be vehemently disputed by both the former ANM (HHSh) activists and the representatives of present authorities, who would recall the well-known fact that since 1998 the RA’s Foreign Policy has included in its agenda the international recognition of the Genocide. Furthermore, the representatives of the present authorities will point out the fact that, in contrast to former authorities, they are, as a matter of principle, opposed to placing the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic under Azerbaijan’s jurisdiction even nominally. Though true, these differences are incapable of changing the general course and content of the RA’s Foreign Policy, as they are trifles compared to those weighty similarities which have penetrated the second president’s policies from those adopted by the first one.
Indeed, the basis of the RA Foreign Policy were established in the beginning of 1990s in a deeply incorrect, if not an illusive manner. It was a period, when, on the one hand, giving in to fantastic dreams that were inspired by the West, and, on the other hand, having a huge shortage of experience in international relations and national security issues, the government of Armenia:
In general, official Armenia usually explains its inexplicably yielding and passive policies towards Turkey and the Armenian Question as a realistic and pragmatic attitude, which has in turn only caused Turkish contempt and contributed to the continuation of Turkish pressures.
Those so-called realism and pragmatism are expressed in a series of simple and ridiculous statements. If Armenia makes territorial or other demands, Turkey will declare war on Armenia. In fact, Turkey has already declared war on Armenia in informational, psychological, ideological and economical spheres. Yet, Armenia plays ostrich, shutting its eyes to this reality. The only act of war Turkey has not undertaken against Armenia is military aggression. However, there are reasons for not taking that step, of which we can mention a few fundamental ones: the existence of their own problems, among which the Kurdish rebellion; the existence of an Armenia army; the Armenian-Russian strategic alliance; the presence of Russian troops in Armenia; Turkey’s desire to enter the European Union; the existence of the Armenian Diaspora. This, however, does not mean that the Turkish threat has disappeared once and for all. In case of international or regional instabilities Turkish decision makers may decide to attack Armenia, preferring the achievement of its long-term strategic aims to the risk of short-term international condemnation. In any case, Turkey can take such a step against Armenia whether the latter does or does not voice any territorial demands. It is worth reminding that in 1993 Turkey planned to invade Armenia, though the Armenian leaders of that time had clearly declared that they had no territorial demands from Turkey.
If Turkey satisfies Armenia’s demand of land reparations, then what is Armenia going to do? 15-20 million Kurds and Turks currently live on those lands. In fact, Turkey isn’t going to make any territorial concessions to Armenia in the near future, because it is still a strong and non-democratic state. On the other hand, it is not able to increase the pressure on Armenia since all possible methods have already been attempted and applied. Meanwhile, our well-defined demands for land reparations may force Turkey to make some concessions, even if considered against the backdrop of the Artsakh liberation struggle and of other territories in eastern Armenia. The future will show whether we will be ready to accept those concessions. Meanwhile territorial demands will by no means do any harm, and, on the contrary, will strengthen Armenia’s position in the process of current negotiations regarding Artsakh.
Many states have active territorial disputes and decade-long land problems between each other. Some of the more famous conflicts include: Turkey-Syria, Turkey-Greece, Turkey-Cyprus, (soon Turkey-Iraq is also possible), Israel-Syria, Israel-Lebanon, Israel-Palestinians, Syria-Jordan, Syria-Lebanon, Iran-The United Emirates of Arabia, India-Pakistan, India-China, India-Nepal, India-Bangladesh, Indonesia-Bangladesh, Indonesia-Australia, Russia-Japan, Russia-Estonia, Russia-Latvia, Russia-Norway, Russia-China (this centuries-old argument was mainly solved by the contract signed in 2005), China-Mongolia, Canada-Denmark, France-Madagascar, France-Mauritania, Spain-Morocco, China-Taiwan-Vietnam, Philippines-Malaysia, China-Taiwan-Japan, China-Northern Korea, Japan-Southern Korea, Argentina- Great Britain, Great Britain-Spain, Morocco-Western Sahara and so on.
As we see, these conflicts include all kinds of states: big and small, strong and weak. However, none of them would even consider simply dismissing or relinquishing their rights or demands for land (as, unfortunately, the leaders of the Republic of Armenia do), because all of them realize the consummate strategic significance of territory. Very often economic, political and cultural relationships develop in parallel between such two states. For instance, Syria has quite highly developed relations with Turkey: but it decidedly continues to consider Alexandrette (Iskanderun) as part of its own territory, despite its 1939 annexation by Turkey.
Realism and pragmatism demand that the Armenian authorities develop and adopt a new policy towards Turkey, which should be based on the acknowledgement and acceptance of The Armenian Question. Currently the Armenian question hasn’t been resolved either by the Moscow and Kars Treaties (both signed in 1921), or by any other treaty signed after the fall of USSR, which is evident in the current unsteady strategic, legal and political conditions. None of those various agreements fulfil their diplomatic potential nor can they do so until the Armenian Question – the problem of the security of Armenia’s borders and guarantees for a viable Armenian state – is resolved.
ARMEN AYVAZYAN, PhD Director “Ararat” Center For Srategic Research
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