Sidelining Armenia

While scanning EurasiaNet, I noticed the following article on a new proposed railway from Turkey to Azerbaijan via Georgia. Since I will be hopefully be in the region early next year, I found of particular interest:


Plans for the construction of a major railway linking Turkey to Azerbaijan via Georgia are prompting mounting concern in Armenia. Officials in Yerevan, fearing the completion of the railway would further isolate Armenia, have pressured Georgia to pull out of the multimillion-dollar project. The railway also is facing objections from the United States and the European Union.

Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey revealed their intention to pursue the railway project in May 2005 during the ceremonial opening of the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) oil pipeline. The presidents of the three nations said the rail link, estimated to cost roughly $400 million, would promote regional economic integration and create a new transport corridor between Europe and Central Asia.

The project essentially boils down to laying an almost 100-kilometer-long rail track between the eastern Turkish city of Kars and the southern Georgian town of Akhalkalaki. Armenian officials insist that the project makes no economic sense, pointing to the existing railroad running from Kars to the northern Armenian city of Gyumri and on to the two other South Caucasus countries. The Kars-Gyumri link has stood idle for over a decade due to the continuing Turkish economic blockade of Armenia.

As international interest in the Caucasus increases, Armenia is increasingly realizing the danger of its isolation as the train pulls out of the station without them. Sandwiched between Turks, the borders are closed to Azerbaijan and Turkey leaving the only way in through Iran or Georgia. With almost no natural resources and being the one occupying land that at least technically belongs to another sovereign country, Armenia doesn’t have many cards in its hand. Russian backing and Iranian trade are keeping the country afloat, but for how long?

Fighting in Nagorno-Karbagh won’t benefit the Armenias as the international community is more worried about Azerbaijan and its oil. The BTC pipeline makes Azerbaijan some pretty valuable geostrategic real estate. Armenia wears its desperation on its sleeve. This tiny wedge of a country has only its diaspora to rely on for financial support (around 40% of its GDP I believe) and the alleged Armenian Genocide for international support and sympathy. This says it all:

. As an incentive, Yerevan has indicated that it would make the Gyumri hub available without insisting that Turkey lift its economic blockade. “Armenia is ready to let Turkey, Georgia and Azerbaijan use the existing railway line on Armenian territory without Armenia’s participation,” Armenian Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian reiterated during an official visit to Tbilisi on June 27.

One thing is certain, the longer Armenia holds out on a Karbagh resolution, the more it’ll lose. To offer Armenia some simple, yet seemingly much needed advice: There is no good solution, choose the lesser evil.

SIDENOTE:Readers, if we collapse Iran, what will the consequences be for Armenia?

About Chirol

Sir Ignatius Valentine Chirol (1852 - 1929) was a journalist, prolific author, world historian, and British diplomat. He began his career as a foreign correspondent and later became editor of the London Times. After two decades as a journalist he joined Her Majesty's Foreign Ministry as a diplomat and was subsequently knighted for his distinguished service as a foreign affairs advisor. Additionally, he wrote a dozen books on foreign affairs including The Far Eastern Question (1896), Serbia and the Serbs (1914), The End of the Ottoman Empire (1920) and The Egyptian Problem (1921). He is generally credited with popularizing "Middle East" in reference to the Arabian Peninsula with his book The Middle Eastern Question (1903). "Chirol" is a US citizen and graduate student studying Defense and Strategic Studies and government contractor. As with the historical Chirol, he has traveled to over two dozen countries and lived abroad for many years. Chirol speaks English and German fluently with basic knowledge of manyl of others.
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10 Responses to Sidelining Armenia

  1. Nathan says:

    One thing is certain, the longer Armenia holds out on a Karbagh resolution, the more it’ll lose.

    You’re right, the longer it takes to reach a deal, the worse it gets for Armenia. Which might explain why Azerbaijan is doing a lot of its own holding out on a Karabakh deal (perhaps more than Armenia). Armenia knows it must make some concessions, but it’s kind of hard to reach a deal when Azerbaijan declares negotiations failed and vows to retake Karabakh.

    Armenia’s not entirely helpless though. Any new fighting would quite likely involve an Armenian missile attack on Azerbaijan’s oil industry. While that certainly wouldn’t win it any friends, it doesn’t have too many close ones to speak of right now. And it does, kind of, have Russia’s support.

    And speaking of outside states, I wouldn’t overstate international support for Azerbaijan. The states pushing for a resolution appear very frustrated with both parties.

    All things considered, I think a resolution will be reached, though any deal will be viewed as a disaster by consituencies in each country. But, as much as Armenia needs to cut a deal before it finds itself in too bad a position, Azerbaijan needs to just come to grips with the fact that trying to regain territory populated almost entirely by a hostile ethnic group is a silly thing to even be pretending to want.

  2. Curzon says:

    Who are Armenia’s allies? I understood that they had good relations with Iran, but besides that I’ve heard no news.

  3. patrick says:

    As for this issue, Armenia could make a few compromises (like giving up parts of Lachin and Kelbajar) but Nathan is right about the foolishness of the Azeris wanting Karabagh (Artsakh) back. If they decide to attack–who is going to support them? Turkey will support them but the US is not going to do so (publicly)–kissing Turkish posterior on the Genocide issue, while deplorable, is quantitatively different than endorsing a military attack on Armenia.

    The best thing for the Azeris to do would be to take what they’ve got and resettle the Azeri refugees–they have plenty of money from oil while Armenia’s main source of money is Western Union transfers to Uncle Vartan and Grandma Emma from cousins in Moscow and Glendale.

    Unfortunately, as with so many oil-rich countries, corruption would probably swallow the money; Armenia of course also has a corruption problem without having oil or any other natural resources (look at Onnik Krikorian’s Oneworld blog for details about that. I hope I didn’t offend anybody that doesn’t like him; I don’t have an opinion of him myself.)

    Anyhow, you need to recall who is the president of Armenia (Robert Kocharian), he is from Karabagh and served as a militia commander in the war there (he came to power through support of Karabagh veterans); the assassinations of Demirchian, Sarkissian, and the other politicians at the parliament in 1999 seem to have stemmed from their perceived willingness to make compromises regarding Karabagh.

  4. patrick says:

    Curzon, the Armenians have allowed Russian troops stationed on the Turkish and Iranian border; the Armenian government has close relations with Russia as well as Iran. Some Armenians feel that Russia wants a weak Armenia, and would like to follow in the footsteps of Georgia and Ukraine to build closer ties to the West than to Russia.
    As for how Ahmadinejad has affected Armenia’s relationship with Iran, I don’t know; Armenia is pretty desperate for friends and can’t be very pickey.

  5. Nathan Hamm says:

    None really, but it kind of seems that Russia likes it a bit more than Azerbaijan. But probably just a bit.

  6. RevengeBlade says:

    Hi folks,

    Armenians are one of the oldest nations in the region of mid-East. Though during the invasion of Turks from mid-Asia to Anatolia in 11th century, Armenians chose the wisest way and joined to the established state of Seljuks instead of continuing to fight. (Though some of ‘em migrated to the far south-east of Anatolia and established a short-breathed kingdom.) Hence, reconciliation decision saved Armenians and their culture for almost 700 hundred years under the rule of Ottomans mostly in peace…
    Well, when Russia grew stronger and Ottoman weakened, Armenian issue raised in the Anatolia. The conflict, claims and bloodwork continued till mid 1970s even the borders were clear and insured by the international agreements. With the collapsing Armenian terrorsit group ASALA by Turkish Intelligence in 1970s, Armenians chose a more civilized manner and area which is international politics, for their causes.
    For Armenia, Karabagh is vital, but for Azerbaijan it is a matter of proud and prestige. However, the Azeri massacre by Armenian troops were sad, wrong and disgusting. On the other hand, if Armenia didnot invaded Karabagh, it is obvious that, the nation would have collapsed by the isolation and most probably because of famine. Armenia’s economy, rigth now, is subjected to foreign aids, and Iran trade. Russia couldnot help with full power because of Chechen issue, and Georgia is becoming more passive and choosing the more powerful side, Turkei; after the -green,purple,orange whatever- revolution. So, Armenia is now fighting for her prestige, and old days in European politic arena, and in the US.
    I willnot enter to the subject of genocide claims on Armenians by Ottoman Empire. Instead, I want to say something about the what would happen if Iran is invaded or intervened by UN or US alone. Today, there are four nation who have strong hands in the region, old players, Israel, Russia and Turkei, and now a new player, which is more powerful USA. If USA or UN can succeed to coup the regime of islamic law (sheriat) and establish the democracy, Iran will be connected to Azerbaijan with hearth. Because, the demographic status shows that more than %50 of Iran is Azeri or Mid-Asia origined Turkomans, the diplomacy between Iran and Azerbaijan would be expected to hit the ceiling. And beleive me, I am saying as a fellow Turkish with noprejudjement or insulting intention, none or Turkic Republics is good with Armenia a bit because of her agressive behaviour and strategy on Azerbaijan and Turkei. So when the regime collapses in Iran, I think the days of hell would begin for Armenia. Armenia should have chosen the ways of her ancestors, I hope from hearth it isnot too late for changing the current situation.

  7. robert says:

    claiming that democracy in iran would mean hell for armenia is more of a wishful thinking than a logical one. For one thing, one would consider that a fundamentalist iran would be more prone to side with muslim Azerbaijan, and join the axes of turkish evil in blocading Armenia. But that’s not the case. In fact Iran has it’s own animosity twards azerbaijan, because it knows that given the chance azerbiajan will try to “regain” (as if it was ever theirs) northern iranian province with the same name.

    I can understand RB’s position about the genocide issue. He chooses to hide and not discuss it, because he knows that ottoman Turkey subjected over 1.5 mln Armenians to genocide. How’s this relevant? he accuses armenia of agressivness, against azerbaijan and turky, while he hides his reasons. And no need to blame armenians of massacre in azerbaijan, if anything you should be aknowlidging your turkish government’s genocide, and fellow turkish azerbaijans pogroms in baku, subgait, kirovabad etc. Not to mention karabakh.

    Rest assured Armenia is not going to pack and go away. It has survived thousands of years of invasions, it’ll survive the turkish bloodsucking.

  8. RevengeBlade says:

    Hey again,

    My first comment was a claim as Robert said, and yes I am neither a psychic nor a professional strategist. But I know what I have claimed, isnot a far possibility.
    About genocide issue, I didnot want to mention about it because it would be improper with the subject. The subject is about Armenian future relations with neighbours. And as Robert mentioned, I don’t wish genocide issue come to front line while discussing about Turkei-Armenia future relations at every time. I am sick of it because I donot understand the logic of a man who shapes his nation’s future depending on the rage, grimness and revenge in the past.
    This may sound weird and not objective when considiring the blockade of Turkei on Armenia; actually from my personal view, the blockade was a right choice when ASALA terrorists had assasinated Turkish diplomats and Armenia supported ASALA. But right now, the blockade is nonsense, and Turkei should open its borders. But hey, I amnot the minister of Turkei am I?
    Besides, I am netiher a historian; but I know there are lots of genocide or massacre issues waiting for historical research, such as genocide on Turks in West Trachia during war 1912-1913; massacre of Turks in Cyprus between 1967-1974 and etc. Again from my personal view, it is ridicuolus to claim fairness or justice(!) from these issues. The genocide issue is very like the seed of hatred between nations. That is why, in 1930s Turkei removed 1912 massacre from historical education reasoning the subject has more devastating effect than its constructive potential between Greece, Bulgaria, and Turkei.
    This was a really civilized manner of the government at that time, but politicians after 1945, has used (actually exploit) Aegean border disagreement and Cyprus issue for their way to government forgetting that these issues would effect Turkei’s future, and indeed they are effecting right now.
    Same thing goes between Turkei and Armenia, Armenia is claiming a genocide done by Ottoman government, and Turkish Republic isn’t accepting it. I said, “claiming” ; because genocide issue is something that two sides that involved in the matter should accept it. (as between Germany and Israel.) Armenia made its proofs related with subject, and Turkei showed the counter-proofs and hey! suddenly, European governments started or intended to put the law that forbidding the historical research about claimed genocide. (Tell me Robert; if this isnot aggresiveness of diaspora that what is it?) Europe should have waited the conclusions of researchs and discussion. I am terrified, when the matter came to Turkei as a presequite for entering EU. The genocide issue should be taken so careful and with sense for both sides, it should not be a raw material for international diplomacy. Currently, the genocide issue is giving harms to both Turkei and Armenia. I think the right thing is carrying it up to an agreeable neutral international historical platform and reach a conclusion.
    On the other hand, I personally don’t understand why Turkish government sees the Modern Turkish Republic as an extension of Ottoman Empire. It was also announced like that in Lozan agreement. Actually, I neither understand Turkish governments nor Armenia diaspora, so Robert that is why I didnot want to mention about genocide issue, I cannot reach to conclusion as fast as you do. And sorry for the long comment, I hate this.

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