Turkish – Armenian series Part II: alternative diplomacies

Dimpool Analysis Team


04 April 2012

Alternative Diplomacies

During the second half of the twentieth century, civil society organizations became an important factor in enforcing harmony within communities by highlighting civil, political, social, and environmental rights for all people.[1] Citizens were given the option to organize to follow their goals individually and collectively.[2] Individuals participated in collective actions since they have goals and desire to achieve them realistically and practically. Civil society organizations emphasize their roles within non-governmental organizations as track-two and track-three diplomacies and think tank organizations. After state-level negotiations or agreements, many non-governmental organizations were involved to protect human rights, environmental protection, and domestic issues, as well as ‘normalizing’ relations among countries: for instance, Turkish-Armenian relations. In addition, politicians work with non-governmental organizations in order to compose free and equal atmospheres for different cultures.

[wpcol_1half id=”” class=”” style=””]

The United Nations (2003) offers a definition of non-governmental organizations:

“NGOs are non-profit, voluntary citizen groups, these establishments are organized in local, national or international level.”

Civil society organizations consist of all associations to which volunteers belong, including families, religious organizations, social movements, parent-teacher associations, neighborhood associations, sports leagues, labor unions, volunteer groups, professional or occupational associations, support groups, and so forth. [3]

These kinds of organizations deal with governmental concerns, and after voicing said concerns they can be effective for monitoring and implementing international decisions. Contacts and discussions are frequently utilized for public and national diplomacies, and many joint cultural actions were organized, such as concerts, exhibitions, film exchanges, and especially the participation of artists representing countries like Armenia and Turkey, and the next chapters will show their stance toward revolutionized change.[4]

Seda Grigoryan has organized a project between Armenian and Turkish students, and before the explanation of non-official diplomacies, there is a quotation to describe relations strictly at the youth level of society that defined the implicit need for reconciliation:

“During our communication and interaction, each of us has so-called ‘culture studies’ which is important for all of us, but we do not talk too much about it, usually only in silent observations. During our communication, however, we discovered much about each other’s culture and the phrase ‘we also have it’ became the most common phrase among us, and we took for granted that if we said: ‘We have this’ our Turkish friends would say in turn: ‘We also have it’ or vice versa. Recently a funny incident occurred. We were tasting guhta (biscuits), and our Turkish friends said: ‘This is really tasty.’ An Armenian friend asked, ‘Don’t you have ‘guhta’,’ and the Turkish one responded: ‘No.’ The Armenian shouted with hands up: ‘Yeah! Finally! ‘Guhta’ is only ours… I can now say for sure that ‘guhta’ is Armenian”.’[5]

Track-Two Diplomacy

The term “track-two diplomacy” was founded by Joseph Montville in 1981. There is a comprehensible definition that states:

“Track-two diplomacy is the unofficial, informal interaction between members of nations, with the goals of developing strategies, influencing public opinion, and organizing human and material resources in ways that help resolve the conflict.”[6]

“Track-two diplomacy” is more generally described as conflict resolution using a regional process that involves trouble or frozen conflict.[7] In this paper, the Black Sea Region is represented due to difficulties with Turkish-Armenian disputes for many years and relevant discussions undertaken to move towards track-two diplomacy.

This method of diplomacy aims to establish order through talks regarding stability and security among applicable leaders and rules. To create a stable region there is a need to establish order through peace and there are some conditions for achieving this, such as changing perceptions of the conflict, opening new channels for communications (which is very important for direct interaction), identification with the conflict and presenting options for the future, and developing networks that can challenge perceptions in those countries or regions. According to David L. Philips, track-two diplomacy emerges a context for civil society, because there is a need to improve mutual understanding in order to shape public opinion and decision-making.[8]

In track-two diplomacy, intermediaries can be parliamentarians, leaders, activists, journalists, members of think tanks, academics, scholars, and experts.  These people are able to create productive dialogue and problem-solving meetings between the parties. Track-two diplomacy involves informal communication/interaction with unofficial representatives from civil society. Varied and unorganized conjecture can cause new compromises because of redefined country interests, but changing existing policies is not easy due to domestic political accounts. For this reason, political representatives utilize track-two diplomacy as a tool in order to serve states’ interests toward compromise, meaning that this diplomacy is a component of official diplomacy.[9]

In Turkey, track-two diplomacy generally includes international academic conferences, workshop, and so on. For these efforts, funds’ sources should be determined clearly, because groups may perceive or define them as “interest” for the leaders. The basic prerequisite is objectivity, in other words, standing on gray, not black or white, because only open-minded approaches lay the foundation for solutions. Nationalist rhetoric or advocacies are corrosive actions, and as a result sides should not defend their respective national interests that cause a stop to resolution. In the past, there was the opinion in Turkey that there should not be any communication with Armenia, but some things have changed and there are many new forces in Turkey demanding a more liberal approach to Armenia.[10] New understandings induced a new approach: not to be enemies with each other.

Second-track channels are created where mistrust and misconception between governments prevails and blocks the progress of formal or official negotiations. Second-track processes are pursued by academic think tank communities, business environments, and experts to achieve general and/or formal negotiations. This diplomacy has benefits, since it allows involved parties to explore opportunities that could not permit negotiations by the government otherwise.

Track-two diplomacy models regarding Turkish-Armenian relations:

Turkish-Armenian Reconciliation Commission (TARC)

TARC should not be explained in detail, since it was not organized in Turkey, but the paper is important due to its pivotal role in track-two diplomacy. The most marked sample in TARC was announced on July 9, 2001.[11] Attempts were launched in Vienna with support by the United States Minister of Foreign Affairs with the goal of determining frictions and developing new strategies in order to unify the two countries. TARC helped to break the ice, because it encouraged civil society to develop track-two diplomacy. However, in this process, sides could not reach positive or material gains due to discussions regarding the law and genocide.

USAK (International Strategic Research Organization)

USAK-ISRO Logo / usak.org.tr
USAK-ISRO Logo / usak.org.tr

USAK is technically a think-tank organization, but because it has connections with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, it is considered a track-two diplomacy organization. USAK was established in Ankara in 2004,[12] and it focuses on strategic dimensions regarding international relations and security. As track-two diplomacy, it contributes academic works to Turkish-Armenian relations through foreign policies. Which Armenian Issue, written by Sedat Laçiner, is a strong example of USAK and was developed for the purpose of several research goals.

Articles’ and books’ languages are a key factor, because after a descriptive/analysis is made interpretations can be transformed into real practices, since writers/journalists are perceived as experts by the general public and people accept their thoughts as absolute truth. However, publication is not a step toward civil society implementation, because publications’ qualifications and context are significant to reach a better position. Many textbooks and publications are available to reconstruct ideas, such as the public’s perception, and consequently, USAK became successful in relations when it analyzed the conflict before making the suggestions. A track-two approach overcame psychological barriers between two nations, and USAK has an influence at this point because of its publications and meetings. It could also increase confidence-building measures and indicate political will.

Sedat Laçiner and USAK published another book, Armenian Issue, Diaspora and Turkish Foreign Policy, and in addition, Maxime Gauin contributed with Politically Motivated Misuse of History: An Analysis of Muriel Mirak-Weissbach’s “Reflections” on the Armenian Issue. Hasan Selim Özertem also had a contribution regarding relations with The Impasse in Turkish-Armenian Relations, and his studies are valuable toward describing the issue and providing awareness at the civil society level since identifying issues is necessary to motivate progress. He explains the delayed political sphere among countries and argues the necessity of reconciliation.  He emphasizes that relations between two nations should be enhanced via cultural organizations because these organizations are helpful for politicians to overcome public resistance.[13] Özertem’s statements are pivotal for civil society’s importance regarding relations and, at this point, he states that civil acts are a strong contributing factor to the paper’s research context.

[/wpcol_1half][wpcol_1half_end id=”” class=”” style=””]

This type of analysis serves to characterize the problem in the beginning; therefore academic products prevent leaders from speaking from memory, which is not a permanent peaceful method. On USAK’s website, there are many more relevant articles available for public review.

All academic publications have the opportunity to reach different readers, and this method is crucial to change perception and overall understanding. People construct their understanding by values, norms, beliefs, and perceptions; therefore, some conflicts were constructed in their minds at first. At a societal level, antagonism begins with closed political thought by focusing nationalist emotions without objective investigation. In this way, academic publications, conferences and workshops have consistent contributions to Turkish-Armenian relations from a positive standpoint. After suffering years of common pains and negative influences due to low-politics and dialogue, both communities have been influenced negatively and the result was a pattern enmity and amity patterns.

Turkish-Armenian Business Development Council (TABDC)

TABDC Logo / tabdc.org
TABDC Logo / tabdc.org

TABDC is seen as a track-two diplomacy organization with its organizational structure in articles. TABDC came to the industry after the Black Sea Economic Cooperation Organization’s summit for institutionalized economic cooperation between Armenia and Turkey. Opening borders meant more mutual economic cooperation, and therefore business men who participated from logistics and transportation sectors generally tried to apply pressure on officials.[14]  TABDC organized cultural activities within the context of developing relations; for instance, it attempted to sign protocol between ODTÜ (Middle East Technical University) and Yerevan State University.  It is the best institution for interaction with the younger generation. Students become aware of their similarities and work to find a common ground where differences cease to exist. The younger generation has the potential to move past whatever happened in the past and start fresh on a foundation of respect, trust, and tolerance. However, people such as Aybars Görgülü state that these specific kinds of academic implementations cannot be very successful.

In addition, TABDC caused restoration between the Akhtamar Church and its project and, as mentioned in the introduction, this project became more influential in order to adopt a friendlier approach among countries, meaning that civil society interference caused an agenda of “normalizing relations with new action”, so in practice the reality was eventuated. The project assessed goodwill between sides in 2007, and after the Church’s restoration, media created peaceful headlines without enmity rhetoric and good intentions were considered frozen by official diplomatic methods.

Global Political Trends Center (GPoT)

GPOT Logo / gpotcenter.org
GPOT Logo / gpotcenter.org

GPoT is also a part of this category, including such people as scholars and industry experts, but it is also valid for track-three diplomacy as defined by Narod Marasliyan’s—who works in Global Political Trends Center—explanation. The GPOT Center is another non-profit, non-partisan research institution that was established in 2009as a part of İstanbul Kültür University. The Center contributes to reconciliation support and non-violent solutions through dialogue. This Center has region-specific programs, which also includes Armenia, in order to support the rapprochement process in the political and grass-root levels by establishing contact amongst civil societies, media outlets, and youth. Its works were written using track-two diplomacy ideas because it attempts an explanation of its key benefits by using track-two diplomacy’s representatives.

The project is “Support to Turkey-Armenia Rapprochement (SATR).” SATR held policy and media discussions with much participation from media figures, opinion makers, and former officials in order to contribute the current annual state of relations.

It influenced normalization efforts by focusing business, civil society, and dialogue amongst the states as the first step toward understanding what they currently had/have and what advantages exist to determine the next step.[15] The project developed new business partnerships and regional professional networks, and engaged civil society in alliance-building toward normalization, as Nigar Hacızade (who is experienced with GPoT and a community manager in Al Jazeera Turkey) explained. GPoT’s experiences on rapprochement are not limited solely to SATR, as stated in Days Two and Three in Armenia-Turkey Rapprochement, which contributed toward confidence building.

The project was organized and developed to implement bilateral protocol, from a visible and comprehensible perspective, for the general public. Participants have discussed the application of the protocol and focused the impact of the rapprochement within the two countries in the Caucasus region. According to Narod Marasliyan, they achieved their goal to speak and discuss with each other, even for the most important issues. Marasliyan adds that, after her visits, journalists who were participants wrote about Armenia, so she went on to say that they achieved perceptual selectivity in the media. These journalists began to write more positive columns, including news about both communities, so that the projects could be successful to prevent judgment before the fact. For GpoT officials, if journalists or documentary writers prepare more news or documentaries about each other, they can develop bilateral relations because these types of developments allow opportunities to introduce countries, cultures, food, and so on. After the SATR, a journalist wrote an article about Armenian food culture, and Marasliyan determined that after activities such as these, people were introduced to each other and it therefore promoted communities’ introduction, which could be interpreted as the foundation for intimacy among subjects.


[1] Habib Zafarullah, “Human Rights, Civil Society and Nongovernmental Organizations: The Nexus in Bangladesh”, Human Rights Quarterly, Vol. 24, No. 4, November 2002.

[2] Arnove R.F, Christina R, “NGO-State Relations: an Argument in favor of the State and Complementarity of Efforts”, Current Issues in Comparative Education, 1998.

[3] Caroline Hodges Persell & Adam Green & Liena Gurevich, “Civil Society, Distress, and Social Tolerance”, Sociological Forum, Vol. 16, No. 2, pp. 206, 2001.

[4] David Hovhannisyan, “Process of Normalization of Armenian-Turkish Relations: The Official and Societal Dimensions”, Proceedings of the International Workshop – Prospects for Reconciliation: Theory and Practice, pp. 47, 2010.

[5] Seda Grigoryan, “A View from Inside: Clash of Theory and Practice Within”, Proceedings of the International Workshop – Prospects for Reconciliation: Theory and Practice, pp. 107, 2010.

[6] J. Montville, “Transnationalism and the role of Track-two Diplomacy”, The U.S Institute of Peace, 1991.

[7] Peter Jones, “Canada and Track-two Diplomacy”, A Changing World: Canadian Foreign Policy Priorities, No. 1, pp. 1, 2008.

[8] David L. Philips, “Unsilencing the past: Track-two Diplomacy and Turkish- Armenian Relations Reconciliation”, BerghahnBooks, p. 1, 2005.

[9] Nimet Beriker, “Gayriresmi Diplomaside Kalite ve Uyuşmazlık Çözüm Yöntemleri”, Foreign Policy, Istanbul Bilgi University Publication, p. 125, 2003.

[10] Nigar Göksel, speech at Urvagits Talk Show on Kentron TV, 2008. Available in Trust Building in Armenian-Turkish Relations Through Civil Society Actors’ Cooperation-Public Report.

[11] Aybars Görgülü, “Turkish-Armenian Relations is A Vicious Circle”, TESEV publications, pp. 19, 2008.

[12] Filiz Cicioğlu, “Turkish Foreign Policy in the Context of Armenia and Cyprus İssue and Non-governmental Organizations”, Akademik İncelemeler Dergisi, Vol. 5, No. 2, p. 86, 2010.

[13] Hasan Selim Özertem, “The Impasse in Turkish-Armenian Relations”, Armenia 2010; Previous Activities Future Prospects,” University of Tehran, Tehran, 4 August 2010.

[14] Aybars Görgülü, “Turkish-Armenian Relations is A Vicious Circle”, TESEV publications, pp. 20, 2008.

[15] Direct communication with Nigar Hacızade, community manager in Al Jazeera, Turkey.


* Tugce Ercetin is a volunteer expert of Dimpool – Web Based Policy Center. Currently, she is an MA student on international relations.

You might also want to read

[srp srp_number_post_option=’5′ srp_widget_title=’ ‘ srp_thumbnail_wdg_height=’60’ srp_thumbnail_wdg_width=’60’ srp_include_option=’3186,1266,’ srp_thumbnail_option=’yes’ srp_content_post_option=’titleonly’]

Tags from the story
During the second half of the twentieth century, civil society organizations became an important factor in enforcing harmony within communities by highlighting civil, political, social, and environmental rights for all people." />