Turkey dreams of its own Silk Road – politics

The neighboring states of Turkey and Armenia, which have been deeply enemies for decades, are moving closer. The governments of the two countries, which do not have diplomatic relations and whose relations are severely strained by the genocide of the Armenians during the First World War, now want to talk again. The newly appointed special envoys from Turkey and Armenia will meet in Moscow on Friday to discuss the normalization of relations.

The most important topic of the meeting moderated by the Kremlin is the opening of the Turkish-Armenian border, closed since 1993. Also on the agenda, the creation of a land corridor from eastern Turkey to Azerbaijan via Armenia. This would be a step that could change the geopolitical positioning in the South Caucasus in crisis and open up economic opportunities for all participating states: for Armenia and Azerbaijan, but also for Turkey and Russia. More importantly, the Ankara Corridor would provide access to Central Asia and thus fulfill a Turkish dream.

The planned “Sangesur Corridor” would open the way to Turkey via the Caspian Sea and from there to Central Asia. Without this land connection, it is not possible: Azerbaijan, Ankara’s ally, unlike its neighbor and sworn enemy Armenia, has no common border with Turkey. The Azerbaijani enclave of Nakhichevan alone, located far from the center between Armenia and Iran, also borders Turkey for a length of 17 kilometers. Therefore, the corridor is necessary to connect Turkey with the heart of Azerbaijan.

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Turks have wanted to become the first power in Central Asia, develop both a market and an area of ​​political influence in historic “Turkestan”: via a connection from the east from Turkey via the Caucasus States of Armenia. and Azerbaijan to the Caspian Sea. From there it will go to Central Asia with Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan. If this succeeds, Turkey could become the heavyweight of a vast region controlled by Russia.

Russia tries to protect its interests in the region

In Ankara, people have long dreamed of a “Turkish Silk Road”, says Emin Şirin der Süddeutsche Zeitung. He was a member of parliament for President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s ruling AKP party and now works as a TV columnist and commentator. “Turkey can open a path to Central Asia that does not go through Russia or Iran – from eastern Anatolia to Kazakhstan and to the Chinese border.” Now that “Ankara’s successful foreign policy, which has been strongly supported by the military, has run out,” now is the time to “seek dialogue on foreign policy goals,” said Irin. This is especially true for Central Asia. These are not big Turkish dreams, but economic interests, says Şirin: “The market there has enormous potential.

Ankara’s strategic ambitions are unlikely to be approved in Moscow and Tehran. Both states, especially Russia as the successor to the USSR, have influence and interests in the Caucasus, which once belonged to the Soviet Union, and in the former Soviet Central Asia. The fact that Moscow still moderates the upcoming negotiations between Turkey and Armenia has more to do with Russia trying to protect its interests in the region in this way, said Stefan Meister of the German Foreign Policy Society. . After all, the Kremlin is the guarantor of the ceasefire agreement reached between Armenia and Azerbaijan after the 2020 war, according to the expert from the region of the former Soviet Union.

The agreement that ended the war for the Nagorno-Karabakh region also provides for the creation of the Sangesur corridor. But under the supervision of Moscow. The Russian security forces are supposed to guarantee free passage, not the Turks: Ankara remains dependent on Moscow’s goodwill for its great strategic project.

Armenia is very interested in the corridor and in the rapprochement with Turkey. After the lost Karabakh war in the fall of 2020, with the impoverished country almost entirely dependent on Russia, Moscow saved Yerevan from utter defeat in that war with one word of power. Armenia is economically isolated, it is supplied via Georgia and Iran. The country needs open borders with Turkey.

A lot is at stake for Armenia too

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan sees his chance, according to Caucasian expert Meister. Even though the head of government seemed politically out of breath after the lost Karabakh war, he was able to stay in power. With the corridor and the border open with Turkey, the political survivor could present success to the people, explains Meister and explains: Yerevan urgently needs a counterweight against the overwhelming Russia, “the sovereignty of Armenia depends on the opening of the border with Turkey “.

But it’s not that far: Turks and Armenians share a tragic past. From an Armenian perspective, the murder of hundreds of thousands of Armenians living in the then Ottoman Empire by the Ottomans in 1915 was genocide. For decades, Yerevan unsuccessfully asked Ankara to admit the genocide. Ankara refuses to do so. He does not deny the “massacres” of the Armenians. However, he describes them as the result of the rebellion of the Armenian insurgents. This would have made common cause with Russia as the war adversary of the Ottoman Empire, the massacres occurred in the “chaos of war” with no intention of genocide.

There is therefore a lot of work awaiting the special envoys. Ankara sends Serdar Kılıc, an experienced ex-ambassador, and Yerevan, deputy speaker of Parliament Ruben Rubinjan. As a sign of goodwill before the Moscow meeting, Yerevan lifted its embargo on the import of Turkish goods and Ankara announced the resumption of charter flights between the states. It remains to be seen whether such goodwill is enough: in the early 2000s, Turkey and Armenia had already approached once, the opening of the border and therefore reconciliation between the two countries seemed within reach. Then they failed.

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