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Two Armenian Opposition Parties To Campaign Jointly Against Draft Agreements With Turkey

Armenian party leaders at discussions called by President Serzh Sarkisian on the Armenian-Turkish issue on September 17 in Yerevan

Armenian party leaders at discussions called by President Serzh Sarkisian on the Armenian-Turkish issue on September 17 in Yerevan

The widespread public outcry in Yerevan triggered by the publication one month ago of two draft protocols intended to pave the way for the establishment of formal diplomatic relations between Armenia and Turkey shows no sign of abating.

On the contrary, on September 28 even some leading members of President Serzh Sarkisian's Republican Party of Armenia informed Sarkisian about their reservations concerning unspecified aspects of the ongoing rapprochement between the two countries, and requested "clarification."

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced on September 27 that the two countries' foreign ministers, Eduard Nalbandian and Ahmet Davutoglu, would initial the two draft protocols at a meeting on October 10 in Zurich. Switzerland mediated the talks between the two sides that resulted first, in the announcement in April of agreement on a "road map" for normalizing bilateral relations and then, on August 31, the unveiling of the two draft protocols.

The two draft protocols deal respectively with the establishment of, and the subsequent development of, formal diplomatic relations between the two countries; the second one stipulates that the border between the two countries will be opened within two months after ratification of the twin protocols by the two countries' parliaments.

Stepan Safarian, a senior member of the opposition Zharangutiun (Heritage) party, told a press conference in Yerevan on September 28 that Zharangutiun and the Armenian Revolutionary Federation--Dashnaktsutiun (HHD) have reached a "tentative agreement" on launching protest actions both within and outside parliament. The two parties between them control 23 of the 131 seats in the National Assembly.

The HHD objections focus on the provision of the second protocol under which Armenia formally recognizes its current border with Turkey, and also to the planned formation of a Turkish-Armenian panel tasked with studying the 1915-18 mass killings and deportations of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire. The HHD party program still lists among its objectives bringing back under Armenian hegemony territories in present-day Turkey and Georgia that were part of the short-lived independent Armenian state between1918-20, and constraining the present-day Turkish leadership to agree to reparations for surviving victims or their descendants.

Zharangutiun for its part wants the two draft protocols put to a nationwide referendum. The party's chairman, Raffi Hovannisian, who served under then-President Levon Ter-Petrossian as foreign minister in 1992-93, reaffirmed that demand on September 29 in an open letter to President Sarkisian. Safarian said that if his party might launch a campaign for Sarkisian's resignation if the authorities fail to accede to that demand.

A second former Armenian foreign minister, Vartan Oskanian, has similarly rejected the two draft protocols, terming them "defeatist." Speaking on September 22 in Yerevan, Oskanian affirmed that "We want relations with Turkey, but we want them with a Turkey that wants equal and reciprocal relations with Armenia." But, Oskanian continued, the wording of the protocols "give Turkey what it has wanted for 18 years," meaning recognition of the present border and renunciation of Armenia's campaign for international recognition of the 1915 killings as genocide. Oskanian noted that there is, moreover, no guarantee that, once the protocols have been initialed and cannot be amended, the Turkish parliament will not refuse to ratify them.

Sarkisian, for his part, defended the wording of the draft agreements during a five-hour meeting on September 17 with pro-government political parties. Most opposition parties boycotted that meeting. Sarkisian plans to meet with Armenian diaspora representatives in Russia, France, the United States, and Lebanon in early October to solicit their views on the draft protocols.

Ter-Petrossian's Armenian National Congress (HAK) was swift to hail publication of the draft protocols as reflecting "substantial progress" toward the normalization of bilateral relations. At the same time, the HAK too rejected as "unacceptable" the establishment of a Turkish-Armenian panel of experts tasked with assessing the 1915 massacres of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire, and the provision whereby the Turkish-Armenian agreements will take effect only after being ratified by the parliaments of the two countries. It said that allows Ankara to delay indefinitely the reopening of the Turkish-Armenian border.

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.