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ÜNAL ÇEVİKÖZ >On diplomatic relations

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During the Cold War, international relations was built on the bipolarity between the liberal value system of the West, based on fundamental human rights and freedoms, and the value system believed to be the opposite of it prevailing in Communist countries.

This bipolarity found its main definition in the balance of terror between the two world superpowers with nuclear warfare capability, namely the U.S. and the USSR.

Although the former Warsaw Pact and the USSR ceased to exist, some people argued that the vestiges of the Cold War continued. U.S.-Cuba relations were defined as being among the anomalies. The establishment of diplomatic relations between Washington and Havana was defined as “overcoming the final obstacle” and as the true end of the Cold War.

U.S. President Donald Trump has based the foreign policy implementation of his administration on disputing the policies of his predecessor Barack Obama. Trump’s each and every step reverses the achievements of the previous administration. In foreign policy, it is now Cuba’s turn.

After the establishment of diplomatic relations with Cuba, Obama allowed U.S. citizens to visit the island. Many tourists used the opportunity to flow into Cuba, which boosted the tourism industry in the country.

However, Trump recently announced that he is now tightening the commercial and travel ties between the two countries, in an obvious attempt to target yet another Obama policy.

His argument is mainly based on criticism of the poor human rights record of the regime in Cuba. In a speech delivered in Florida, Trump declared that the U.S. would not lift sanctions against the regime in Havana until “all political prisoners are freed, freedoms of assembly and expression are respected, all political parties are legalized and free, and internationally supervised elections are scheduled.”

Many question the justification behind the decision, with the argument that Trump has a selective approach in his criticism of poor human rights performance, as the U.S. continues to sustain relations with other countries where similar limitations on basic rights continue.

Trump’s decision on Cuba does not reverse the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries, but the continuation of sanctions means an embargo on the flourishment of small and medium enterprises in Cuba, which had started to boom with the momentum gained in the tourism industry.

Diplomatic relations between countries is one of the major elements of dialogue in international relations. Turkey, although it recognizes its neighbor Armenia as a sovereign and independent subject of international law, has not been able to establish diplomatic relations with this neighboring country in the Caucasus.

However, despite the lack of diplomatic relations, citizens of these two countries are developing people to people contacts in a broad range of areas. Based on unofficial reports, the trade volume between the two countries is over 250 million U.S. dollars, mainly consisting of Turkish goods being exported indirectly to Armenia. Every year approximately 40,000 Armenian citizens come to Turkey to find seasonal or longer-duration job opportunities.

The normalization of bilateral relations between Turkey and Armenia, despite of the efforts which culminated with the signing of two protocols in 2009, is still pending. The land border between the two countries continues to be sealed and direct trade is banned.

Both sides may have their own explanation and justification for this state of affairs. But increased contacts between the two peoples and reciprocal visits require diplomatic relations to improve. This is a step that the two countries have to take jointly, without any preconditions, with a view to the direct interest of their citizens. In the end, a decision on establishing diplomatic relations is the least that these two countries can do to avoid misperceptions that could hinder the normalization of their ties and enhance peace and stability in the Caucasus.

June/20/2017

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