Thursday, April 2, 2009

Armenia - Turkey Accord

Armenia and Turkey have been talking. There appears to be a chance that Turkey will open its borders. Let's make no mistake - this would open up huge market possibilities to the impoverished, Russian ally in the south Caucuses. Such a move would also play well for Turkey with the EU.

Open borders for Armenia could allow a larger portion of the earmarked US development aid funds to be utilized in implementing a variety of interventions aimed to develop Armenian trade and business ventures.

The benefits of trade across the border with Turkey, avoidance of Georgian customs corruption and the effective targeting of development aid to support private sector growth could bring about significant change in Armenia. The end to isolation would likely have an immediate positive impact on the rampant corruption in the government and public services that exists at every level.

Much depends on the extent of any agreement with Turkey and the resistance to such a move by Azerbaijan.

Hurriyet News reported today that Azeri Foreign Minister Elmar Mamedyarov warned that "If the border is opened before the withdrawal of Armenian troops from the occupied territories of Azerbaijan, it would run counter to Azerbaijan's national interests".

This message was likely meant as much of a warning to Armenia as to Ankara. However, it also may represent an opening if it is not meant to only refer to Ngorno-Kharabakh. An offer by Armenia to withdraw from the other occupied territories could move the peace process forward. This may be the best time to start serious talks.

The other issue is Azerbaijan's position as independent of Russia, which might change if it felt that Turkey was about to abandon Baku. They have already signed a memorandum of understanding with Gazprom (Moscow's real foreign affairs arm) on natural gas transport through Russian pipes at market prices. Finalizing such an agreement would kill the Nabucco project which is intended to avoid Russia and bring natural gas to Europe via Turkey. So much for energy independence.

Finally, sorry Representative Kirk (R.CA). The Armenian Genocide bill will likely not pass now - Turkey, geo-politics, energy and peace are more important - and, what is the color of the sky on your planet? The failure of this bill will not cost the Democrats the House in 2010.

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