Turkish political analyst Mensur Akgün once said that in terms of its significance and interest for Turkey, Armenia is a “small fish”.
When I asked Mustafa Edib Yilmaz, the Business Editor at Today’s Zaman, about his reaction to the fish parallel, he said that, “If this was the case Turkey would have swallowed Armenia by now.”
Yilmaz, like many other experts, doesn’t believe that Armenia will have much to offer Turkey if the border between the two ever opens. However, the editor thinks that Armenia is a leader in certain production sectors and that Turkey holds a commanding position in other sectors.
In this light, the two countries can complement one another.
He believes that after the border is opened and relations normalized, the biggest gain for the Turkish economy is that it would save huge amounts of intellectual energy now spent on finding solutions to the existing problem. This is evident but as to what specifically can be done to reach this objective, according to Yilmaz, is something the presidents must answer.
Osman Kavala, who heads the Anadolu Kultur organization, doesn’t think the opening of the border will result in anything miraculous. Nevertheless, it is highly important in terms of developing trade and tourism.
Kavala proposes the following ‘road map’ – the border can be temporarily kept closed, but before its final opening, bilateral diplomatic relations must be established. This can be accomplished via embassies of the respective countries acting as hosts.
Thus, the Turkish Embassy in Georgia could start to engage in affairs with Armenia while, at the same time, the Armenian Embassy in Greece could do the same with Turkey.
Kaval believes that over time, given such a gradual process, Azerbaijan would find itself increasingly unable to hinder the establishment of relations.
Zümrüt İmamoğlu, an economist at Bahçeşehir University’s Economic and Social Research Centre (BETAM), told me she was surprised to learn during her visit to Armenia in June that Ankara had also banned imports from Armenia.
“Trade and business relations are an important condition for peace between countries. I believe that we’d have a more peaceful region if economic relations are established,” İmamoğlu said, adding that Armenia’s impact on the Turkish economy would be mainly felt in the eastern region. She pointed to Turkey’s open border with Georgia and the positive impact it has had on Trabizon and other northeastern Turkish areas.
When I asked the Turkish experts to evaluate the long-term development prospects of Armenia given that two of its western and eastern borders are closed, Osman Kavala said it was a real challenge but that Armenia still had the potential to develop economically through its links with Georgia and Iran.
Kavala said that such potential would multiply with the opening of the border between Armenia and Turkey.