VARTAN OSKANIAN Will Turkeys current turmoil between PM Erdogan and the countrys powerful army complicate and delay the countrys boldest initiatives in years - the moves to address decades-old tensions with both Armenians and Kurds? Restructuring the role of Turkeys army is vital, but if Turkey cannot follow through with the Armenian and Kurdish openings, the countrys own domestic situation, its relations with the two peoples, as well as tensions in the Caucasus, will undoubtedly worsen. Of the several flashpoints in the region, the tension between Armenians and Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh is among the most challenging. The Armenian-Azerbaijani struggle is no longer a two-way tug-of-war between two small post-Soviet republics, but part of an Armenia-Turkey-Azerbaijan triangle. This triangle is the direct consequence of the process of normalisation between Armenia and Turkey, which began when both countries presidents met at a football game. That process now hinges on protocols for establishing diplomatic relations that have been signed by both governments but unratified by either Parliament. Completing the process depends directly and indirectly on how Armenians and Azerbaijan work to resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. This dispute, if not carefully untangled, holds many dangers. Turkey, which for nearly two decades has proclaimed its support for Azerbaijan, publicly conditioned rapprochement with Armenia on Armenian concessions to Azerbaijan. Turkey, a NATO member, is thus a party to this conflict now, and any military flare-up between Armenians and Azerbaijanis might draw it in. Armenians and Azerbaijanis have not clashed militarily for more than a decade and a half. But this is only because there has been the perception of a military balance and a hope that the ongoing negotiations would succeed. Today, both factors have changed. The perception of military parity has altered. With Azerbaijan having spent extravagantly on armaments in recent years it may now have convinced itself that it now holds the upper hand. At the same time, there is less hope in negotiations, which appear to be stalled, largely because they have been linked to the Armenia-Turkey process, which also seems to be in limbo. The diplomatic protocols awaiting ratification by the two countries Parliaments have fallen victim to miscalculations on both sides. The Armenians came to believe that Turkey would find a way to reconcile Azerbaijans interests with the Turkish opening to Armenia, and would open the border with Armenia regardless of progress on resolving the Nagorno-Karabakh issue. The problem is that Turkey initially closed the border precisely because of Nagorno-Karabakh, rather than any bilateral issue. Turkey believed that by signing protocols with Armenia and clearly indicating its readiness to open the border, the Armenians could somehow be pressured into resolving the Nagorno-Karabakh problem more quickly. But this has always been unlikely in the absence of a comprehensive settlement that addresses Armenians greatest fear - security - and fulfils their basic political requirement, namely a definition of Nagorno-Karabakhs status. Both sides seem to be somewhat surprised by the others expectations. Indeed, there is a growing fear that a settlement of the dispute is more distant now, because Turkeys public backing has raised Azerbaijans expectations, while some Armenians fear collusion between neighbours out to railroad them into an unsustainable agreement. This is Turkeys moment of truth. The Armenia-Turkey diplomatic process has stalled, and the Turkish governments effort at reconciliation with the countrys large Kurdish minority has soured. Just as a loss of confidence among Kurds and Turks in eastern Turkey will rock the shaky stability that they have recently enjoyed, a loss of hope for a settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute may end the tentative military calm between Armenians and Azerbaijanis. But the situation is not irretrievable. Endless public sparring between Turkish and Armenian officials through the media is not helping. It is time for both countries leaders to speak directly with each other. So, even as Turkey tries to deal with the consequences of its history at home, and redefine the armys role in society, it must reset its tortured relationship with Armenia. Khaleej Times