Head of Hay Dat office and political issues of ARFD Bureau Giro Manoyan in his interview with ArmInfo discusses the latest developments around the conflict in Syria, the Kurdish factor in this conflict. He shares his vision of Armenia's interests in the direction of neighboring Iran and Turkey, as well as the point of view regarding the most possible settlement of the conflict around Artsakh, procceding of the interests of Armenians
A short question requiring an expanded answer: what is going on in Syria?
If at the very beginning of the conflict in 2011-12 there was a civil war in Syria in certain meaning, completely different forces and states are struggling each other in this territory today . What is to reality, in Syria a regional war is unfolding between the most diverse states, which have virtually no relation, in fact, to the Syrian question. Moreover, these states are not at all interested in the peaceful settlement of Syrian problems done by Syrians themselves , at least until Syria resolves its own problems. The most obvious example is Turkey, which seeks to resolve its own internal problems in Syria. First of all, to distract the discontent of at least half of the Turkish citizens from Recep Erdogan. In this light, it is worth recalling that in 2019 presidential elections will be held in Turkey. And, of course, it is profitable for Turks to project on their own territory the problems with Kurds in Syria. There are also the United States, Russia, Iran and not to mention the unofficial armed groups that came to Syria from different countries. And as long as all these forces and countries do not resolve their own problems on the territory of Syria, it is not necessary to talk about the prospects for solution, in fact, the problem of Syria itself. At the same time, the same Turkey is one of the main countries responsible for the alarming situation in Syria, because it was Ankara which is responsible for the transit of foreign armed groups through its territory to Syria, etc. At the same time, Turkey has serious kinds and appetites not only in Syria, but also in Iraq. Time will show if they will be able to satisfy those.
Did Kurds become, in certain sense, a continuation of ISIS regarding the dispersal of chaos in Syria and in the long term wider to the Greater Middle East?
I do not think so, the goals of the "Islamic state" and various Kurdish organizations in Syria and Iraq are quite and too different.
Goals but not functions...
Yes, but different goals assume different functions, and unlike ISIS, I do not see the same Kurdish organizations intending to occupy, for example, all of Syria, Iraq and even the entire Middle East. The influence of Kurdish factor has increased due to two main reasons. Due to the impressive amount of Kurds participating in the war in Syria and the powerful assistance received from the US by the Kurdish armed forces, of course pursuing their own goals. I think that at this period of time the goals and interests of the US and the Kurds coincide. I cannot state exactly how long it will continue, however, today the Kurdish factor is one of the most impact-generating factors in the Middle East. And in the case of proper use of their own capabilities, Kurds, of course, have every chance to achieve the realization of certain goals. I think that the referendum on the independence of the Iraqi Kurdistan, which has been implemented not in time and made Kurds face more harm than good, became a clear lesson for them in this meaning.
Can you name two countries among those involved in the Syriaн conflict, with at least partially coinciding interests, two countries operating in Syria on the principles of alliance?
For instance, the interests of Russia and Iran crush there at the minimum. Of course, there is also competition for zones of influence, but in general, their interests are more consonant than contradictory in Syria. At the same time, there is no country dictating the Syrian agenda. Even the most mighty players, Iran and Russia cannot dictate anything in Syria even in the aggregate together, considering the presence of "on the ground" players like US and Turkey.
What threats and consequences does this bellum omnium contra omnes comprise to the South Caucasus region?
Very often Armenia ignores the fact that the distance from us to the war-torn Syria with the participation of Turkey does not exceed 400-500 kilometers by direct line. And the only country that separates us from the combat field is the participant of this war - Turkey. Accordingly, these events may pretty probably have consequences for Armenia as well. Of course, it should not be obligatory in the form of military actions projection on the territory of Armenia. However, the destabilization of Turkey may well raise serious issues in front of us, since it is exactly the concept of instability itself in our time that contains the main threat. I can say the same about Iran, especially in the view of the failed attempt of “winter coming there in spring”.
The threat of disintegration of Iran, of course, is contrary to the interests of Armenia. As for Turkey, everything depends on the degree of our readiness to receive from this the fair share, which is due to us. In my opinion, destabilization in Turkey will not lead to the immediate collapse of this country. But such chaos is quite capable to change the power in this country, the possible consequences of which is not possible to predict as of today. This cannot stop worrying us. Nevertheless, I am convinced that Turkey will dissolve, if not tomorrow, then in the coming decades, which we should be ready for. And I'm not convinced that we are fully ready for this today.
Do you see in today's Turkey a political force capable to represent a greater threat for Armenia in the future than Erdogan's JDP?
In my opinion, JDP does not represent a direct threat to Armenia, given the differences between its policy and Turkey's policy under the influence of the militaries before the JDP took the power. However, there is a treaty existing today between the militaries and the JDP, coming from expediency, and the main reason for the failure of the coup attempt in July 2016 in Turkey was exactly this union. At the same time, I believe that the prospect of the occurrence of power in Turkey posing a threat to Armenia greater than the current JDP does, is quite real.
Name the countries that stabilize and, in opposite, destabilize the situation around Artsakh, please…
Unfortunately, certain steps of Russia, which is Armenia's strategic ally, in particular, the sale of arms to Azerbaijan, essentially destabilize the situation around Artsakh. It is these weapons that give Baku some certainty, which is not justified in reality, urging it to make steps like April 2016. Meanwhile, it is the refusal of the OSCE Minsk Group co-chair countries to maintain a false balance in the assessments of the parties to the conflict and can force Azerbaijan to renounce unmotivated aggression. Turkey makes a significant contribution to the destabilization of the situation in the region, including because of its military cooperation with Azerbaijan. The task of the Turkish authorities is to ensure unity within the country by turning everyone into an enemy. Meanwhile, such a state of matters may pretty well be perceived by Azerbaijan in its own way and Baku is quite capable of repeating the April scenario, this time hoping for direct military support to Ankara. For example, we do not have to go far, in 2008, Mikhail Saakashvili started a conflict with Russia, mistreated by the Tbilisi speech of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice as a promise of US support to Georgia. Therefore, the statements of the first persons of the Turkish power on the direct support of smaller brother assume a treat of war not only between Armenia and Azerbaijan, but also far beyond the borders of the states of the South Caucasus. In this light, the international community should correctly assess the potential initiators of the destabilization of the situation in the region with a view to preventing it in advance. Of course, it is not necessary to speak about Azerbaijan in this light at all - this formation, in this meaning, is beyond any competition.
That means you do not see any stabilizing factors...
The stabilizing factor is the level of relations of the same Russia with Armenia. However, at the same time, the consistent arming of Moscow by Armenia and Azerbaijan implemented by Moscow increases the security risks of the region, automatically encouraging a regional arms race. Militarization itself is a serious threat to stability and peace in the region. In this light, the international community and the mediators should first of all explain to Azerbaijan, keeping the negotiating process hostageд for many years, the absence of alternatives to the resumption of negotiations towards peace, based on the status quo created by its own efforts. Otherwise, the arms race will continue in an endless manner. Actually, such an international approach was demonstrated with respect to Kosovo, and I do not see any reasons preventing its implementation in respect to Artsakh. Quite frankly, I am by no means inclined to equate the peaceful settlement of the Karabakh conflict to a settlement necessarily through negotiations. If half of the world agrees to recognize Artsakh, Azerbaijan's recognition will no longer be needed. Baku simply has to accept this reality. An alternative is to preserve the current situation, in which a full-scale war can be unleashed at any time.
And don't you see the threat of coercion to such a peaceful settlement by the international community implemented to Armenia and Artsakh, with all the attendant consequences of it?
I do not think that such a scenario can proceed from the interests of the international community. The solution proposed by the international community in the person of the Minsk mediators assumes rather large concessions both from the Armenian side and from Azerbaijan. In this sense, the mediators, of course, can force Armenia and Artsakh to make some concessions, however, only forcing Azerbaijan to make appropriate concessions. In this light, I believe that if we do not use the continuing status quo in a proper manner, not all events will develop in our favor. The status quo can work for us if we use it correctly.
For example,by increasing the population of Artsakh from 150 thousand to a quarter of a million people. This assumes serious work, but it is possible if we want to do it and if do it right. To start, for example, it is necessary to create equal, fair socio-economic opportunities for all in Artsakh, which will allow our people to go there to permanent residence from the same Russia with a view to use exactly these opportunities. These opportunities really exist in the territory of today's Artsakh, and all those who insist on such opportunities absence today, just wish to avoid an equitable distribution of these opportunities, these benefits among all those willing, both from Armenia and the Diaspora, and directly from Artsakh itself. We face a very serious problem and if we do not manage to resolve it, the current status quo will no longer work in favor of Armenian interests.
Nevertheless, today such a policy is not implemented by the authorities of Armenia and Artsakh. This at least should assume some alternative strategy?
I think that we must all the same work towards settling all the territories of Artsakh without exception. It is clear that for this justice should be recovered and strengthened not only in Artsakh, but also, in fact, in Armenia. To maintain the status quo is quite and absolutely impractical. After all, this requires mechanisms and means. I am convinced that the Armenians have such means and mechanisms, the problem in a situation in which Armenians from various countries including Armenia cannot invest such funds in Artsakh. The implementation of the same Madrid principles, in the form in which they are offered by mediators, does not guarantee Artsakh to reach the peace, since it will make the borders of Artsakh narrowed to the limits of NKAO more vulnerable. This guarantee to Artsakh, of course, will provide only populated areas with outstretched communications and economic facilities. In the Artsakh conflict, the winner one will be the one who will last longer, and this is expected in Baku as well. The repatriation of our compatriots to Artsakh will certainly contribute to the establishment there of socio-economic and political justice. One assumes another in Artsakh and in Armenia, in a complex. Things cannot go like this for long time. However, the main thing is that Armenians have all the necessary opportunities to straight up the situation. There is a way out, and we only desire remains to be felt and obtained.