Starting sometime in late April-early May 2009, the progress of Armenian-Turkish rapprochement apparently began to lose speed. In the diplomatic field proper, nothing or almost nothing seems to have happened since April 22, the day the foreign ministers of Armenia and Turkey, with the mediation of Switzerland, announced that they had agreed on a framework to normalize their bilateral relations, and that a Road Map had been determined within this framework. Despite the apparent recess in actual progress since that time, world media – including of course that of Turkey and Armenia – continue to cover the topic rather actively, and public discourse about rapprochement remains very intense in both countries. Conferences, rallies, debates and leaks to the press about the issue occur on a daily basis.
Armenian-Turkish Rapprochement: Timing Matters
The Road Map to normalization of bilateral Armenian-Turkish relations announced in April 2009 has not yet been made public, and a slowdown is evident in the Armenian-Turkish rapprochement. Turkey’s strategy involves working to mitigate Azerbaijan’s resentment against potential Armenian-Turkish normalization by tying its progress to the resolution of the conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh in a way that suits Azerbaijan. As a result, however, Armenian society is becoming increasingly apprehensive of the entire Armenian-Turkish dialogue. Tying rapprochement to the conflict makes sense from a zero-sum-game perspective but risks jeopardizing the entire process, as the formats and stakeholders are too different. Timing is the key factor now: political actors and societies are becoming frustrated and are no longer certain that the project of rapprochement has a future. Should no definite step towards normalization be made by autumn 2009, public frustration may overwhelm the project and mutual relations may end up worse than they were prior to the start of football diplomacy.
Davutoglu’s zero-problems-with-neighbors doctrine dictates the necessity of normalizing relations with Armenia.
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