Turkish-Armenian Trade a Done Deal?

I just read an interesting article on RFE/RL's Web site about a deal whereby Armenia will certainly be supplying electricity to Turkey after all by April. There was a news story about this plan last year, but I didn't expect it to come to fruition so soon. Here's some excerpts:

The Armenian government announced such an agreement between an Armenian state-run power transmission company and a Turkish utility following Turkish President Abdullah Gul’s September 2008 visit to Yerevan. Movsisian and other energy officials said that Armenia will start delivering 1.5 billion kilowatt/hours of electricity in March if technical preparations at power grids in eastern Turkey are completed by that time. 

The Turkish side has still not officially confirmed the information. Some officials in Ankara have actually denied that Turkey is set to buy electricity from a country with which it has no open border and diplomatic relations.

“The agreement [on electricity exports] was signed,” Movsisian insisted on Friday. “In accordance with that agreement, preparatory work is underway [in Turkey] to start electricity deliveries as soon as possible.” 

“It was envisaged that that work will be complete in April,” he told RFE/RL. “It is still possible that we will finish that and start [supplies] in April. 


Armenia produced approximately 6 billion kilowatt/hours of electricity last year and has the capacity to significantly boost that output. Two major Armenian thermal-power plants are currently undergoing multimillion-dollar reconstruction. They are due to be the main recipients of natural gas that will start flowing to Armenia from neighboring Iran through a recently built pipeline. It is expected that the bulk of electricity to be generated with Iranian gas will be sold to the Islamic Republic. 

That Armenia was to supply Iran with electricity generated with Iranian natural gas imports was nothing new since the two countries, which have excellent relations, have been working on this project for the last few years. This deal with Turkey was agreed upon during a soccer match when Turkey defeated Armenia on its own turf. The so-called "football diplomacy" led Armenia to the position where it is today. Yet this business deal is about to finalize despite that official diplomatic relations between the countries do not exist and have not due to Turkey's abhorrence towards the worldwide Armenian campaign for genocide recognition and the Karabagh war being unresolved in Azerbaijan's favor in a final peace deal. But the latter issue is no longer an obtacle for Turkey in normalizing relations.

Armenian businessmen for years have been buying Turkish goods on the black market and selling it in the Armenian marketplace. The stuff is trucked in several times a week if not on a daily basis or else smuggled in via Georgia. As I pointed out several times before on this blog, clothing, domestic goods, and even jewelry are all imported from Turkey (strangely enough, foodstuffs are not). It is difficult to not buy Turkish stuff because there are usually no alternatives. Some stores of course carry more expensive European brands, but for the most part the Turks have been making lots of money from Armenian consumers. 

Maybe it's time that Armenia starts profiting from the Turkish electricity-thirsty populace. Nevertheless, it's bizarre that this business deal is going down without official, open diplomacy between the two countries. It's a positive step forward that the foreign ministers have been talking to one another about better relations, but to what extent should it really go? Shouldn't Turkey reconcile with its past first before it reaches for Armenia's olive branch (or is it Turkey that is extending it)? Isn't it hypocritical to shake hands wearing a Cheshire cat grin with your longtime enemy, the very one that can't let up on genocide accusations? And who really is hypocritical here, the Armenian side for putting genocide recognition on the back burner in the hopes of having an open border, or the Turks for not sticking to their guns about refusing to speak with Armenia on principle and fostering stubborn nationalist sentiments that there was never an Armenian question? And why isn't the Armenian diaspora more vocal about this issue? How can it condone Armenian-Turkish commerce and diplomacy when Turkey still refuses to acknowledge the Armenian Genocide committed by it as a historical fact?

What's really going on here, and where are we headed? Any thoughts?


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