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Turkish Official: Ratifying Armenia Protocols Currently 'Almost Impossible'

Turkish party official Suat Kiniklioglu

Turkish party official Suat Kiniklioglu

YEREVAN -- An official in Turkey's ruling party says Ankara is extremely unlikely to ratify its fence-mending protocols with Armenia at this juncture, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reports.

Justice and Development Party Deputy Chairman Suat Kiniklioglu was speaking today on the sidelines of an international seminar organized by the NATO Parliamentary Assembly in Yerevan. He told RFE/RL that Ankara continues to peg the normalization of Turkish-Armenian relations to a settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

Kiniklioglu said Turkish ratification of the protocols was made even "more difficult" by a resolution passed last week by a U.S. congressional panel. That resolution recognized as genocide the mass killings of Armenians by Ottoman Turks nearly a century ago.

But he added that he is "on the optimistic side" and that he thinks "eventually [passage of the protocols] will happen."

Turkey has strongly condemned the draft resolution approved by the Foreign Affairs Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives on March 4. It calls on President Barack Obama to "accurately characterize the systematic and deliberate annihilation of...Armenians as genocide."

Kiniklioglu headed one of two Turkish parliamentary delegations that traveled to Washington last week to lobby against the bill's passage. They were present at the committee debate and vote on the bill along with fellow parliamentarians from Armenia.

"Neither the Turkish parliament nor any other parliament should be passing judgment on other peoples' history," Kiniklioglu told RFE/RL. "Turkish-Armenian relations do not need the American Congress to be approved or to be condoned. I think Turks and Armenians are mature enough to resolve their problems on a bilateral level."

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu has publicly warned Washington against exploiting the genocide resolution to pressure Ankara to validate the U.S.-brokered agreements that envisage establishing diplomatic relations between Armenia and Turkey and the opening of their common border. U.S. officials have repeatedly called for the speedy and unconditional ratification of the protocols.

Kiniklioglu indicated that the Turkish government, which has a clear majority in parliament, persists in linking the ratification to an Armenian-Azerbaijani agreement on the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh. He recalled that both the United States and the international mediators, the OSCE Minsk Group, continue to push for such an agreement.

Meeting with Davutoglu in Kyiv late last week, Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian threatened to walk away from the protocols if the Turks fail to honor them "within the shortest period of time."

U.S. and European Union officials have likewise said they should be ratified within a "reasonable" timeframe.