Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Crossing Igdir

Besides being a blog on diasporan issues I also enjoy following developments in Armenia's geopolitics and plan on covering developments in that field as well. 2008 has been the most interesting year of that since I've started following these issues almost a decade ago as the region pulsates with troubles and a renewed push towards a Turkish-Armenian thaw. This thaw might have happened earlier had not Azerbaijan hung on to its "brother state" Turkey for dear life keeping them from doing anything which might be seen as a positive for Armenia. This has stunted relations between Armenia and its western neighbor and delayed any potential developments between them. Cracks have been growing though, most recently with Prime Minister Erdogan's new proposal of a Caucasus Stability and Cooperation Platform.
The Turkish Daily News published an article today by Adil Baguirov, head of the "US-Azerbaijani Network" and USC's former Armenophobe-in-residence on why stability and cooperation in the Caucasus is a bad thing for Turkey and that such peaceful moves like opening the border will do nothing but to harm it. If you care to read his joke of an article (I do not say this because he is an Azeri but as my response to it below points out it truly is a non-sensical joke of an article) here's the link followed by my take:

The blindingly fantastic nature of Adil Baguirov's propaganda piece "For true Caucasus stability Turkey must remain on course" defies belief. Thankfully he does start off his propaganda with an actual fact, that the Armenian-controlled areas equal 15% of Soviet Azerbaijani territory (as opposed to the 20-25% which regularly is cited from Azeri sources despite the ease with which one can dispel that exaggeration via simple math). Unfortunately he then dives right in highlighting "over 800,000 Azerbaijans and Kurds were displaced or killed". Such a framing of the conflict, in which an uninformed reader might presume Armenians killed anywhere close to a million people, neglects the internationally recognized fact that almost all of the displacement occured during the course of the war after "400,000 Armenians were displaced or killed" by anti-Armenian riots throughout Azerbaijan before war had even started. Baguirov literally demolishes his own credibility in one quick swoop by neglecting this vital fact for understanding the evolution of this conflict and proves that he isn't afraid to leave out facts for the sake of promoting the interests of one side.
What is almost as puzzling is the whole purpose of Baguirov's article in the first place. He goes on a tirade about the Armenian lobby's twisting of PM Erdogan's recent Caucasus iniative, except as an active member of the Armenian diaspora and a close follower of both Armenian and Turkish news I have not even seen the iniative mentioned by Armenian lobby groups yet let alone twisted to meet their own allegedly sinister desires. He claims that the proposal has already been "ripped from context and used with such ulterior motives by one special interest group" and yet fails to mention what the Armenian lobby or Armenia has done. He's actually created an opportunity to slander the Armenian lobby (or Armenia, it is not exactly clear which is his guilty party) out of thin air by letting the Turkish Daily News's readers assume what the evil Armenians must have already done to sully this iniative- without actually telling us what it is. This is of course because there is nothing to actually report!
He then rhetorically asks what Armenia has done to repay Turkey for all its goodwill, as if Armenia has constantly rubuffed a Turkey which reaches out to it despite taking constant abuse from Armenia. This once again forgets that the blockade is Turkey's not Armenia's initiative and that it is Armenia which has asked for the border to be opened without preconditions. Despite this Baguirov continues to play pretend by asserting that Armenia is "holding Turkey hostage to never-ending demands", once again failing to mention what these imaginary demands are. He also forgets Armenia's leadership has publically denied it has claims on Turkish territory on numerous occassions (a prerequisite for opening the border) only to have Turkey tell them that they actually do, and that it has shown the goodwill Baguirov claims is lacking to the point of even inviting the Turkish president to Yerevan for the upcoming football match. What better way than to show the good neighborliness Baguirov claims is lacking from Armenia than for President Gul to accept her invitation to visit? Baguirov continues his arguement by stating the best tactic for Turkey would be to continue its trade with the "booming economies" of Georgia and Azerbaijan and that this trade is best done by using Georgia as the only bridgehead. Any tactician could tell you that relying on one path for anything is hardly the best course of action. Baguirov's statement, or should I say his wishful thinking, is now almost pitiable as we see Georgia in shambles and its only east-to-west corridor unblocked just days ago by the Russians, its future accessibility in severe question.
I am not responding to Baguirov to merely promote Armenians as some infalliable people who are right about everything as he does on the other side of the arguement. I just believe his firery Azeri rhetoric as a last-ditch effort to convince Turkey it will somehow suffer by promoting open borders and freer trade for all peoples of the Caucasus is an attitude which does not help this terribly volitile region. If Georgia has taught us anything it is that the nations of this region must work together harder than ever to resolve their differences before they explode again. This means all parties shifting into the painful yet necessary reconciliation mode now instead of attempting to contiually spite fellow nations forever, which while much easier does no good for the region's future. Turkey can play a constructive role in the Caucasus, but is acutely aware that its influence is severely limited as long as it has no relations with a third of the region and needs to rely on wartorn Georgia as its lone outlet. I'd also like to see how Baguirov's arguement that opening the border would cause nothing but ill for Turkey holds up if posed to residents of its eastern provinces, areas in bad need of the economic opportunities the opening would bring. An impoverished region means an unstable region, and more than anything Turkey will benefit from a relieving of its eastern instability. This doesn't even begin to take into account tourism from Armenia whose residents badly want to visit their sacred sites located throughout this region and the positive the people-to-people contact this would bring and contribute towards reconciliation. Based on first-hand accounts, it seems an Armenian has yet to visit Turkey and not felt at least a little bit at home. "For true Caucasus stability Turkey must remain on course"?! Nothing promotes hostility better than polarization and unfamiliarity, what better way forward towards stability than by breaking down regional barries and rediscovering how similar we all really are?

1 comment:

Shiva said...

I am also vehemently opposed to the visit (see my blog), but for different reasons than Baguirov, who is obviously worried that as Turkish-Armenian relations improve, Azerbaijan and the Karabagh conflict will be forgotten.