Russa, Turkey Competing for Influence in Caucasus, Says Safrastyan

YEREVAN–Turkey and Russia are competing for strategic influence over the South Caucasus, waging their struggle for regional dominance in Nagorno-Karabakh, the Director of the Oriental Institute at the National Academy of Sciences in Armenia’said on Wednesday.

“Today Russia and Turkey are struggling for the South Caucasus, and the Karabakh conflict is one of the most important fields of this struggle,” Ruben Safrastyan told reporters during a press conference in Yerevan.

He said both countries are pushing for a greater role in becoming the exclusive mediators to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

Since the Russian-Georgian conflict in August, Turkey has been working, with renewed zeal, for greater influence in the Caucasus, linking the normalization of its relations with Armenia to a resolution of the Karabakh conflict favoring Azerbaijan’s position.

Last month, Turkey’s Foreign Minister Ali Babacan hosted trilateral talks with his Armenian and Azeri counterparts on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, a move seen, by analysts close to the conflict, as an attempt to skirt the current format of negotiations within the OSCE Minsk, co-chaired by the United States, France and Russia.

The geopolitical reality in the Caucasus has sharply shifted in favor of Russia’since the Russian-Georgian conflict, Safrastyan said, explaining that Turkey is trying to counter Russia with its own diplomatic activism by proposing the establishment of regional platform to manage relations in the South Caucasus, dubbed the “Caucasus Stability and Cooperation Platform.”

“In this situation, the two countries are struggling for the South Caucasus," Safrastyan said.

But Turkey will not be successful in its attempts to mediate the Karabakh conflict unless it recognizes the Armenian Genocide and drops its blockade against Armenia, Safrastyan noted, adding that “Turkey should establish normal relations with Armenia by opening the border and paving the way for condemning the Armenian Genocide.”

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