Armenian News – NEWS.am presents the abridged version of an article by Andranik Israyelyan, International Relations scholar working at the Diplomatic School of Armenia, published in Foreign Policy Journal:
“In March 2003, Recep Tayyip Erdogan became the Prime Minister of Turkey, replacing Abdullah Gul; the latter took the post of the Foreign Minister. Meanwhile, Ahmet Davutoglu was invited to become the Prime Minister’s chief foreign policy adviser. This triumvirate would shape Turkish foreign policy for the next decade. The “Armenian opening” was one of the most challenging tasks for these foreign policy makers of Ankara.
Erdogan, a graduate of the religious Imam Hatip School and a former semi—professional football player, was the trio’s most powerful figure, yet he had a relatively passive role in shaping Turkish foreign policy. This is best explained by his narrow worldview. His chief adviser, Ibrahim Kalin, would later describe Erdogan as a politician rather than a diplomat, and one with a poor understanding of international relations. His tirades and hate speeches have even led to a breakdown in Turkey’s relations with Israel, Egypt, and Syria.
Abdullah Gul, a graduate of the UK’s University of Exeter, has always been a man of integrity. When in 2003 Foreign Minister Gul met with his Armenian counterpart Vartan Oskanian and expressed his readiness to start a normalization process free from preconditions, it was music to the ears for Armenia’s top diplomat. Yet months later, Gul confessed to Oskanian that intense debate within the inner cycle of Turkish leadership had concluded that Azerbaijan’s interests could not be sidestepped. This, perhaps, was the first row between the ideologues and pragmatists on the “Armenian opening.”
Already serving as President in 2008, Gul accepted the invitation from his Armenian counterpart Serzh Sargsyan to visit Yerevan. This was the start of what has become known among foreign policy circles as “football diplomacy.” As Gul had been the driving force behind the Armenian opening in Turkey, his Foreign Minister, Ali Babacan, was an excellent candidate for the routine work. As these pragmatists pushed the process forward, Turkey’s ideologues did not hesitate to jump in and wreak havoc. And they did it quickly. In May 2009, Babacan was replaced by Ahmet Davutoglu.
Upon taking the office of Foreign Minister, Davutoglu, according to senior US diplomat David Phillips, rushed to scratch the Protocols between Armenia and Turkey. A few days later after Davutoglu’s appointment, Erdogan went to Baku to allay Azerbaijani fears about normalizing Turkish-Armenian relations.”
What happened next was unimaginable for Gul and for Davutoglu. Ignoring the briefings by the Foreign Ministry, Erdogan declared that borders with Armenia will not open until Armenian troops withdraw from all “occupied territories of Azerbaijan.” In a moment of irony, the “football diplomacy” was obliterated by none other than a former footballer because of his aversion to diplomacy.
Within this context, the new Foreign Minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, is left with no other option but to fault Armenia for stalling the normalization process, and to lay the blame for Turkey’s tarnished image abroad with the Armenian Diaspora.”