Thursday, September 03, 2009
I'm sure many here already know about the news yesterday that Turkey and Armenia are to normalize relations. This was expected as relations had been improving especially since last year when President Gül went to Armenia to see a soccer/football match between the two nations in Yerevan, and a real calming down of the language between the two.
Just about everyone is happy with the situation, including Canada, and it's also a nice break for the US as well since if the two nations agree to work together on the genocide issue then there will be no need for the House of Representatives to pass resolutions on the matter, and the US can retain cozy relations with Turkey which will be a big help when it comes time to remove troops from Iraq. For some information on how important this will be to both nations see this part of a transcript I did last year from a program in Turkish called Stratejik Bakış (Strategic View). Today on Deutsche Welle in Turkish this story is pretty much all they talked about. It seems that Turks in particular are excited by the idea of some sort of change in the relationship between Turkey and the EU, as normalization with Armenia and a stable border is essential for membership, and it's an example they can point to when making the case that they are willing to be flexible even on the most difficult issues.
Geography alone tells you quite a bit about what this change may entail. Take a look for example at the route the BTC pipeline takes:
Of course, that won't change just yet since Azerbaijan and Armenia have to work out Nagarno-Karabakh (the part of Azerbaijan that Armenia is occupying), but perhaps with a less poisonous atmosphere it could help.
Another look at the map though shows just how important this will be to Armenia. Take a look at this picture of the capital.
Right in the background there is Mount Ararat (Ağrı Dağı), a very important landmark for Armenians but located across the border in Turkey. That's how close Turkey is to the capital. And you can see here that though Armenia shares a border with Iran, it's pretty much off in the middle of nowhere and is very mountainous, whereas the area around the capital is much flatter.
And if you switch maps and zoom in on Yerevan you can see just how close it is to the border. Right across the border is the city of Iğdır, population 130,000, just 50 km from the Armenian capital.
Here, take a look for yourself. Here's a map starting from a bit back - zoom in to the western part of Armenia, check out the terrain to the southeast, etc. Lots of fun.
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Edit: for a good overview of all the issues involved here, see this article.