ISTANBUL (Hurriyet)–Turkey acted with political naivety in its rapprochement with Armenia, an American expert on conflict prevention and peace building said over the weekend.
“Turkey acted on two assumptions. First, Turkey thought the reconciliation process would galvanize the Minsk Group to find a solution to Nagorno-Karabakh,” said David Phillips, director of the program on Conflict Prevention and Peace-building at American University. The Minsk Group, composed of diplomats from countries including Russia, the United States and France, mediates between Armenia and Azerbaijan to find a solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
Turkey, Phillips said, also acted on the assumption that efforts to gain international recognition of Armenian genocide would come to an end with the normalization of relations with Armenia. Both assumptions, he added, were wishful thinking.
“There was no linkage between the protocols and the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict,” said the former adviser to the U.S. State Department, adding that Turkey should not have signed the protocols based on that.
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan had pledged Azerbaijan a few days after Turkey and Armenia had reached an agreement on the protocols that they would not be ratified unless a solution to the Nagorno-Karbakh was found. As the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), refrained from sending the protocols to Parliament, the Armenian administration suspended the ratification effort last month.
Phillips told Hurriyet that he believed Turkey was not serious about ratifying the protocols and therefore made no significant effort to see them ratified.
According to Phillips, who is pessimistic about the near future, Armenia was bound to freeze the protocols process as it could not wait for Turkey forever. “I don’t see what Turkey gains if it ratifies the protocols. They will loose support if they do it before the elections,” said Phillips, who is the author of many books and publications, including “Unsilencing the Past: Track Two Diplomacy and Turkish-Armenian Reconciliation.”
The US analyst was equally critical of the Turkish government’s efforts to reach out to its beleaguered Kurdish minority. The promise of reform for Kurds was merely rhetoric, according to Phillips, who was in Istanbul to participate at a seminar organized by Sabanci University. The government raised high expectations by initiating Kurdish broadcasting through the state television channel TRT 6. “But since then, the Kurdish opening has not gone anywhere, especially as far as the constitutional reforms are concerned,” he said.
The Kurdish problem needs to be addressed by a comprehensive approach, which should include an amnesty component. “The amnesty issue is a very bitter pill for the Turks. The PKK [Kurdistan Workers’ Party] has been responsible for so much misery for so long, and it has been demonized by the politicians and the media,” he said, adding that there should be a phased amnesty, based on rank and file.
“I do not believe the commanders will get amnesty. They should settle in the country where they stay,” Phillips said, recalling that this would require cooperation from Turkey’s neighboring countries.