Bridging the Divide: Taking Stock of Turkish-Armenian Relations
In response to the ongoing conflict and lack of dialogue between Turkey and Armenia, the Economic Policy Research Foundation of Turkey (TEPAV), a Black Sea Trust (BST) grantee, has carried out an assessment of civil society initiatives aimed at improving Turkish-Armenian relations. The Turkish-Armenian conflict has resulted in closed borders and limited relations, though there have been many efforts in recent years to change this dynamic. Dr. Burcu Gültekin Punsmann, senior foreign policy analyst at TEPAV, in cooperation with Esra Çuhadar, assistant professor with the Department of Political Studies of Bilkent University, conducted as research to gain an overall picture of success factors and areas needing more attention, and the result is the book Reflecting on the Two Decades of Bridging the Divide: Taking Stock of Turkish-Armenian Civil Society Activities.
“The Turkish-Armenian past is a violent one,” said Dr. Punsmann. “Many initiatives have attempted to heal this broken relationship, and this project was aimed at encouraging the reflective self-analysis of the practitioners.”
The study looked at 64 initiatives that have taken place over the last three years, examining general trends and points of convergence or divergence of views. The resulting book highlights the success of these initiatives in the transference of ideas to the policymaking level, and their impact on the process of normalization and reconciliation between the two countries.
Also considered is what needs to be done in the future to implement projects more effectively. Two workshops took place in Ankara and Istanbul in the middle of the project, allowing civil society representatives from Turkey and Armenia to meet and discuss common challenges made clearer from the research.
Punsmann said that the main problem faced by the organizations involved was a lack of impact at the political level. “There is a disconnect between what’s happening on the ground and the effect this has on policymakers,’’ she explained. ‘’Some of the practitioners involved in these initiatives hadn’t even had this in mind.’’
Punsmann said she also believes there is an urgent need to increase the impact of these initiatives in Turkey in particular, with more advocacy work required to raise public awareness, as Armenia remains in danger of being overlooked in the Turkish consciousness.
Ozgur Unluhisarcikli, director of GMF’s Ankara office, says that BST decided to support this project due to an obvious need for more research on the impact of Turkish-Armenian rapprochement projects. “This assessment shows us what has made these projects successful or not successful, and gives a clear idea of what needs to be done in the future.’’
The Economic Policy Research Foundation of Turkey is a non-partisan, non-profit think tank based in Ankara. For more information on TEPAV, visit www.tepav.org.tr/en.