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New Moves To Thwart, Expedite Ratification Of Landmark Armenian-Turkish Protocols


Armenian Revolutionary Federation supporters demonstrate in Yerevan against the Turkish-Armenian agreements.

Armenian Revolutionary Federation supporters demonstrate in Yerevan against the Turkish-Armenian agreements.

The opposition Armenian Revolutionary Federation--Dashnaktsutiun (HHD) has suffered a further setback in its ongoing campaign for the annulment of the two protocols signed last October by the foreign ministers of Armenia and Turkey on establishing and developing formal diplomatic relations between the two countries.

On April 7, the Armenian parliament rejected amendments drafted by the HHD to the existing legislation on international treaties. Those amendments would have empowered the legislature to ratify such accords "with reservations," or to revoke or suspend accords that are deemed detrimental to national interests.

The HHD had outlined its objections to the Armenian-Turkish protocols even before they were signed. On October 2, the HHD and Heritage, the only other opposition parliament faction, released a joint statement demanding the removal prior to ratification of two key points, Noyan Tapan reported.

The two parties argued that the paragraph affirming the mutual recognition by both sides of the existing Armenian-Turkish border is tantamount to recognizing earlier "illegal and anti-Armenian" treaties. They also argued that the proposed creation of an intergovernmental sub-committee to study "historic documents and archives" is unacceptable as it would call into question "the fact of the Armenian genocide" and thus hinder the ongoing campaign for international recognition that the mass killings of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire in 1915 indeed constituted genocide.

On October 12, the day after the signing ceremony in Geneva, the HHD issued a statement saying it would "resort to all political and constitutional means" to thwart their ratification. It did not rule out demanding the resignation of President Serzh Sarkisian, who first publicly advocated rapprochement with Turkey in a landmark editorial published in "The Wall Street Journal" in December 2006, when he was still defense minister.

Efforts by the HHD to mobilize public opinion against ratification of the protocols failed to prevent the Constitutional Court from formally endorsing them in January. In tacit acknowledgement of the HHD's objections, however, the court 's ruling was prefaced by several pages of explanation summarizing the text of the two protocols and their significance and implications in international law.

Specifically, it affirmed that the mutual obligations undertaken by the two countries "are, under the principles of international law, exclusively of a bilateral nature, and cannot concern, or by various references be attributed to, any third party or the relations with such third party of the signatories of the protocols."

That formulation has been construed in Yerevan as a rejection of the argument, repeatedly adduced in recent months by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, that ratification of the protocols by the Turkish parliament is contingent on concessions by Armenia in the Karabakh peace process, specifically, the withdrawal of Armenian forces from seven districts of Azerbaijan they currently control.

The court likewise ruled that the protocols "cannot be interpreted...in a way that would contradict the provisions of the preamble to the Republic of Armenia Constitution and the requirements of Paragraph 11 of the [1990] Declaration of Independence of Armenia." That paragraph reads, "The Republic of Armenia is for the international recognition of the Armenian genocide of 1915 committed in Ottoman Turkey and Western Armenia."

HHD politicians construed those points as reflecting a "toughening" of Armenia's position on ratification and as a concession by Sarkisian personally in response to opposition pressure.

Five weeks later, on February 25, the parliament endorsed by a vote of 70 in favor and four against government-approved amendments to the law on international treaties that would empower Armenia to annul international accords that have been signed, but not yet ratified. The HHD abstained from the vote on those amendments because the ruling coalition rejected all 10 changes it proposed to them.

President Sarkisian signed those amendments into law on March 9.

In the course of the April 6 debate on the HHD-drafted amendments to the law, Deputy Foreign Minister Shavarsh Kocharian (no relation to the former president) argued that insofar as the constitution stipulates that it is the president and the government who collectively implement foreign policy, empowering the parliament to attach conditions to international accords would be unconstitutional.

Heritage lawmaker Stepan Safarian, however, reasoned that if the parliament is empowered to ratify international treaties, it should also have the power to attach conditions, as the constitution does not explicitly forbid it.

Sarkisian's office announced on April 8 that the president will meet next week in Washington with Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan at the latter's request to discuss whether and how the stalled ratification process can be salvaged.

About This Blog

This blog presents analyst Liz Fuller's personal take on events in the region, following on from her work in the "RFE/RL Caucasus Report." It also aims, to borrow a metaphor from Tom de Waal, to act as a smoke detector, focusing attention on potential conflict situations and crises throughout the region. The views are the author's own and do not represent those of RFE/RL.

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