The first meeting of the special envoys of Armenia and Turkey Ruben Rubinyan and Serdar Kilic took place in Moscow on January 14. Following the meeting, Armenian and Turkish foreign ministries issued same-content messages, describing the meeting as “positive and constructive.” It is clear that the text was prepared and agreed by the parties before the meeting, which indicates that despite the claims of the Pashinyan government, the Armenian-Turkish process unfolded still before the meeting of the special envoys.
Ahead of the meeting, Russian Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova said: “It’s a dialogue between the two countries. We are not part of this format.”
On January 14, while Rubinyan and Kilic were meeting at the reception house of the Russian Foreign Affairs Ministry, Sergey Lavrov was giving a news conference summarizing 2021, during which, he particularly said: “Our role is to help the parties form a direct dialogue. I hope we will succeed.”
Lavrov also noted that it is with Russia’s support that Armenia and Turkey appointed special representatives.
Back on November 25, 2021 Maria Zakharova said that Armenia had asked Russia to broker in the normalization of relations with Turkey.
“I can confirm that Armenia has applied for assistance in mediation between Yerevan and Ankara. Russia is interested in it and made efforts to normalize the Armenian-Turkish relations, our country is ready to further contribute to it in every possible way,” Zakharova had said.
It is a fact that the process would not have started without Russia’s mediation or support. It is worth remembering that Lavrov not only took part in the signing of the Armenian-Turkish protocols in Zurich in 2009, but also that the note, he sent to Edward Nalbandian, actually saved the situation – due to the conditions set by the Turkish side, the signing was delayed for several hours and could have failed.
It is also noteworthy that the U.S Secretary of State, EU High Representative and France’s Minister of Foreign Affairs were standing next to Lavrov in Zurich. Today, only Russia is involved in the Armenian-Turkish process, and Armenia is not the one it was in 2009. As vulnerable and multi-layered Serzh Sargsyan’s decision to start a process with Turkey was, it was his (read: Armenia) decision. The current process is not the result of Pashinyan’s decision, but the result of our catastrophic defeat and the huge changes that have taken place in the region.
The statement issued after Rubinyan-Kilic meeting, in essence, did not say anything about its content. Perhaps only the part “the parties agreed to continue contacts without preconditions” could be considered substantive.
More informative was the statement issued by the Foreign Affairs Ministry of Russia, which particularly said that “the parties expressed readiness to conduct dialogue in constructive, non-politicized manner, in the spirit of transparency and aiming for a practical result, moving from the simple to the complex in “small steps.”
The key word here is “non-politicized” and the interesting thing is that it is uttered not by the participants of the dialogue, but by Russia, whose Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister Andrei Rudenko had separate meetings with two special envoys ahead of their meeting.
In general, “non-politicization” has become a credo of Russia’s policy in the region after the end of the war in 2020. In particular, speaking about the prospects for the settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, Sergey Lavrov has repeatedly called for setting aside political issues (particularly the status of Artsakh) temporarily and focusing on humanitarian and economic issues. And it is not by chance that Russia wants to see the same logic in the Armenian-Turkish process.
The government of Nikol Pashinyan is now conducting a “non-politicized” dialogue with Turkey. And the problem is not even that during the war Nikol Pashinyan announced that “Turkey has returned to this region to bring the Armenian Genocide to the end.” Or, so to speak, it’s just an emotional issue. The practical problem is that this “non-politicized” “tango” is danced not by two, but by three. Besides, this “tango” is unfolding against the background of growing tensions between Russia and the West, full of increasing and unpredictable consequences. The situation is that the lights and music in the tango hall can go off at any moment, which can be fatal for an inexperienced dancer. But Pashinyan is not concerned about that. In his famous speech in Stepanakert’s Renaissance Square back on August 5, 2019 (“Artsakh is Armenia and that’s it”), he literally said:
“We are no longer interested in realistic programs. We are no longer interested in what can be done. We are interested in what everyone considers impossible to do, because the Armenian people are a people who do the impossible.”
Ara Tadevosyan is Director of Mediamax.