To link or not to link? Turkey-Armenia normalization and the Karabakh conflict

Over two years after the signing of protocols on opening Turkish-Armenian diplomatic relations and land borders, the prospects for normalization in the absence of progress on the Karabakh conflict are dim. But there is also little sign of a breakthrough in the Karabakh conflict resolution process itself. Given these impasses, this article proposes an alternative way forward: an unconditional opening of Turkish-Armenian diplomatic relations followed by a redrafting of the Basic Principles. This redrafting would acknowledge linkage between the border opening and the withdrawal of Armenian forces from territory outside Nagorno-Karabakh. It would also reduce ambiguities in the Basic Principles that have stalled the peace process to date. The article first analyzes Turkish policy on the protocols, arguing that the Turkish government can at a minimum be blamed for sloppy diplomacy in 2009. It next justifies the need for a change in policy, explaining why arguments for dropping linkage are not fully compelling and why the Basic Principles have run aground. Finally, it proposes a redrafted set of Basic Principles, which includes the opening of the Turkish-Armenian land border and focuses on an interim solution to territorial withdrawal and IDP return, as well as on Nagorno-Karabakh’s political status.

Authors: Cory Welt