Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu has said discussions on creating an Azerbaijan-Russia-Turkey trilateral format were held during his recent visit to Azerbaijan, while sources from the office of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said the issue of normalizing relations with estranged Turkish neighbor Armenia might have been discussed during the president’s recent meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
While speaking in an interview with Anadolu Agency’s Editors’ Desk on Aug. 10, Çavuşoğlu was asked about the expectations of a suggested Turkey-Russia-Azerbaijan trilateral summit.
Çavuşoğlu said the idea came up on July 15 during a meeting in Baku.
“During our meeting in Baku, Azerbaijani officials said that a trilateral summit was established between Russia, Azerbaijan and Iran,” Çavuşoğlu said. “I told them there can also be trilateral summit with Russia, Azerbaijan and Turkey.”
The foreign minister said Erdoğan offered the possible summit to Putin and got a positive response.
“Lots of subjects can be brought up during that meeting. Unfortunately there is this issue of Nagorno-Karabakh and occupied lands of Azerbaijan,” he stated.
“We have made lots of efforts to resolve the issue. Russia made some attempts as well. We are right now considering Russia’s suggestions, which suit our suggestions to Armenia,” he added.
Çavuşoğlu said Turkey will do its part on the issue, because “both our Russian and Azerbaijani friends want us to contribute to the subject.”
Ahead of the July 15 failed coup attempt, news reports concerning expectations for a step to be taken in the normalization of relations with Armenia had made headlines. That possibility of such a step was discussed in detail at a meeting held in Istanbul recently. Names known to have contact with Yerevan expressed their optimism over such a meeting while speaking in an interview with Begüm Dönmez on private broadcaster CNN Türk on Aug. 6.
In the interview aired over the weekend, Richard Giragosian, the director of the Regional Studies Center (RSC) in Yerevan, expressed his optimism for such normalization by citing two reasons: The position of Azerbaijan, which gained land in the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh in April, and the upcoming meeting between Erdoğan and Putin scheduled for Aug. 9.
Tête-à-tête between Erdoğan and Putin
“We don’t know whether the issue concerning the normalization of relations with Armenia came on the agenda during the tête-à-tête between Mr. President [Erdoğan] and Mr. Putin,” sources from the president’s office meanwhile said, when approached by theHürriyet Daily News on Aug. 10.
“Yet, the issue of founding a trilateral mechanism among Turkey, Russia and Azerbaijan was spoken of. Perhaps, within the framework of this issue, Armenia might have come on the agenda of the meetings,” a senior official from Erdoğan’s office, speaking under customary condition of anonymity, added.
Earlier in the same day, when approached by Hürriyet Daily News, officials at the Foreign Ministry headquarters in Ankara briefly said: “We don’t yet have any information on whether this issue was dealt with during the meetings.”
A Turkey-Russia convergence and the West
Meanwhile, the nonprofit, nonpartisan Center on Global Interests (CGI) foreign-policy research institution, which promotes the rigorous study of modern-day Russia and Eurasia, released a selection of responses from experts to a question on the latest developments in Russia and Eurasia.
In the run-up to the widely anticipated meeting between Putin and Erdoğan in St. Petersburg on Aug. 9, the CGI asked experts to consider the extent to which a possible Russian-Turkish convergence could affect Western interests in the region and beyond.
“The West should fear many things from both Russia and Turkey, but fear over a ‘Russia-Turkey convergence’ would be neither prudent nor prescient. In fact, the West should actually embrace and encourage the de-escalation of the crisis between the Russianand Turkish presidents. And in many ways, the crisis was not really between Russia and Turkey. Rather, it was a clash of titans, driven and defined by a personal battle of egos between Russian President Putin and Turkish President Erdoğan. And although this explains much of the intensity of the crisis, it also makes it easier for both sides to climb down and step back,” said Giragosian.
‘The crisis is between Putin, Erdoğan, not between Russia, Turkey’
“The crisis was not between Russia and Turkey, but between Putin and Erdoğan,” Giragosian said.
“On a broader strategic level, there is little likelihood of this Russian-Turkish ‘normalization’ threatening the West. Turkey’s bid to restore and repair ties with Russia is not an alternative and certainly no substitute for Turkey’s deeper ties to the West. And despite the current crisis in Turkish relations with the West, the Turkish leadership is smart enough to remain aligned with the West. Turkey realizes that beyond the bluff and bluster, Russia is still operating from a position of fundamental weakness and insecurity. Further, Turkey has always sought to be on the winning side of geopolitics,” he said.
“However, we can expect Turkey to engage in its own bluff and bluster, leveraging its overtures to Moscow to garner greater dividends from Brussels and Washington. But at the end of the day, it will take much more than a one-time presidential summit to overcome the inherent rivalry between Russia and Turkey, and there is much more that divides the two countries than unites them. And in the wake of Turkey’s failed coup, an emboldened Turkish president will only seek to enhance his own position. From this perspective, it is the West, much more than Russia that matters most to Turkey, especially as Turkey recognizes that its own strategic significance is still crucial for Western interests,” Giragosian added.
Azerbaijan and Armenia fought a war over the mountainous Nagorno-Karabakh territory, the population of which is mostly ethnic Armenian, in the early 1990s in which thousands were killed on both sides, and hundreds of thousands were displaced.
The region was seized by Armenian rebels from Azerbaijan in a war that ended with an inconclusive truce in 1994. The territory is now ruled by Armenia-backed separatist authorities who claim independence and are backed by Yerevan but are not recognized by any state.
Ankara has no diplomatic relations with Armenia due to the dispute over the mass killings of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire, which Yerevan regards as genocide.
Meanwhile, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Minsk Group of U.S., French and Russian ambassadors, which has long mediated Nagorno-Karabakh peace talks, told Armenian and Azerbaijani press that it was important to continue positive momentum in the peace process over the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict by holding another meeting of the presidents ofAzerbaijan and Armenia.
The OSCE Minsk Group co-chair countries were committed to continuing dialogue between the two presidents and were exploring opportunities to bring them together again soon, Minsk Group co-chair James Warlick told Azerbaijan’s Trend news agency.
“Although we have no specific plans to travel to the region at this time, we are in regular contact with the sides to prepare for the next presidential meeting,” Warlick said.
The Vienna and St. Petersburg meetings were successful in reducing the violence along the line of contact between Azerbaijani and Armenian troops, resuming substantive talks and advancing proposals to reduce the risk of violence, he noted.