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MÜSİAD, the Green Capital of Turkey, and Armenia

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In Armenian-Turkish relations, politics reached a breakthrough in October 2009 with the signing of the Swiss-mediated protocols, whereby it was agreed to open the common borders and establish diplomatic relations. This outcome generally met with great praise internationally. However, as there was also strong domestic and international resistance to the rapprochement, the process soon stalled and the protocols were suspended. Politics failed. In such a situation, is it possible for social organisations to step in and press the process ahead? Stressing the economic advantages of a further rapprochement, MÜSİAD, as an influential entrepreneurs' association in Turkey, is in favour of amelioration of Armenian-Turkish relations and an opening of the borders. Yet, it is also positioned at the junction of political Islam and political economics and, thus, might have reservations against Turkey's Christian neighbour. As the situation is complex, there are various factors influencing the stance of this interest group towards the issue: its view of historical questions, its role vis-à-vis the institutions of political Islam, the economic entanglement within the region, and the Turkish-Azerbaijani relations. Relations with Azerbaijan Republic seem to be particularly relevant in this matter. Azerbaijan reacted negatively to the protocols because it wants to isolate Armenia and thus stifle the latter's military help to the enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh, a region that declared its independence in 1992. The strong economic connections between Turkey and Azerbaijan Republic and, more importantly, the linguistic and religious bonds between the two countries pushed MÜSİAD into a pro-Azerbaijani stance and simultaneously pulled it away from the peace process with Armenia. MÜSİAD's close bonds to the conservative-religious AKP-government of Turkey, which was one of the signatories of the protocols, explain this reaction even more. It is, thus, not the cultural-religious differences with Armenia, but the close relationship to Azerbaijan Republic, which governs the process. In addition, seeing as MÜSİAD regards the Armenian genocide claims categorically as unjustified and false, viewing them solely as malevolent interferences of foreign powers in the Turkish interests, one has to conclude that the organisation is only limitedly capable of changing the course of Turkey's relations with Armenia. Hence, the one-sided approach to historical questions and the close Turkish-Azerbaijani relations with their economic and cultural implications collide with the organisation's explicit objective to improve relations with Armenia.

Affiliations: 1: Freie Universität, Berlin

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