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Armenia Suspends Ratification Of Turkey Deal

Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian (right, with Turkish President Abdullah Gul in Bursa last year) said suspension was in Armenia's "best interests."
Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian (right, with Turkish President Abdullah Gul in Bursa last year) said suspension was in Armenia's "best interests."
By RFE/RL
Armenia has suspended parliamentary ratification of a historic accord aimed at normalizing relations with Turkey.

President Serzh Sarkisian signed a decree on April 22 suspending the ratification and announced the move in a televised address to the nation.

"We have decided not to exit the process for the time being but rather to suspend the process of ratifying the protocols," Sarkisian said. "We believe this to be in the best interests of our nation. Armenia's signature under the protocols will remain, because we want to maintain the existing momentum toward normalizing relations, because we want peace."

He added that "our political objective of normalizing relations between Armenia and Turkey remains valid, and we will consider moving forward when we are convinced that there is a proper environment in Turkey, and the leadership in Ankara is ready to reengage in the normalization process."

The two countries agreed in October to reestablish diplomatic ties and reopen borders after decades of hostility. But they have since accused each other of trying to set new conditions on the deal.

The announcement came hours after Armenia's ruling coalition called for suspending the ratification process, saying Turkey had refused "to honor its commitment to ratify the protocols unconditionally and within a reasonable time frame."

"Since Turkey is not in a position today to ratify the protocols and links it to different issues, in particular with the Nagorno-Karabakh problem, we thought it would be correct if the president of the country suspended [the ratification process] until the Turkish side is able to ratify the protocols," Galust Sahakian, head of the parliamentary faction of the majority Republican Party of Armenia, told RFE/RL.

Yerevan's decision appears to have caught Turkey by surprise.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, speaking before Sarkisian's announcement, said his country remained committed to peace protocols with Armenia.

Erdogan told reporters in Ankara, "We have expressed on several occasions our commitment to the letter and spirit of the protocols and the target of putting them into practice."

He added, "We have also explained on several occasions...how the ratification process can be advanced and how we can achieve the target of comprehensive peace in the region."

The reference to regional peace suggested he had no intention of abandoning his calls for settling the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict as part of the normalization process.

Turkey supports Azerbaijan in its dispute with Armenia over the breakaway region.

There is no official reaction yet from Azerbaijan, which has put heavy pressure on Ankara to link the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict to the Turkey-Armenia deal.

Backdrop Of Mistrust

Tensions have been high for months in both Armenia and Turkey since the two sides signed the accord under international mediation in Zurich in October.

The deal calls for Turkey and Armenia to reestablish diplomatic ties and open their border. The border was closed by Turkey in 1993 in solidarity with Azerbaijan during its war with Armenia over the breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh.

It also calls for Ankara and Yerevan to set up a joint commission of historians to investigate the mass killings of up to 1.5 million Ottoman Armenians during World War I. Yerevan, which is set to hold its annual commemoration of the killings on April 24, calls the killings genocide, while Turkey says the deaths were part of the wider conflict.

But the accord has been mired in mistrust between the two sides almost from the moment it was signed.

Yerevan was angered when -- one day after the Zurich deal -- Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said it could not be implemented until Armenia withdrew from Nagorno-Karabakh, which it has held since the war. That was despite the fact the normalization accord made no mention of the conflict between Yerevan and Baku.

Similarly, Ankara was infuriated when the Armenian Constitutional Court ruled in January that the protocols were in compliance with the Armenian Constitution, including Paragraph 11 of the Armenian Declaration of Independence.

That declaration states Armenia's support for achieving international recognition of the "1915 Genocide in Ottoman Turkey." Ankara called the ruling an effort to cast the accord as an agreement that genocide took place even before the joint commission of historians could begin debating.

Now A Non-Starter?

The question now is whether the troubled normalization accord is essentially dead after the April 22 action or whether Yerevan's statement is an effort to pile international pressure on Turkey.

If the Armenian ruling coalition statement means the accord is dead, that would not only raise tensions between Turkey and Armenia -- and between Armenia and Azerbaijan -- but also disappoint the accord's international backers.

Among the senior international dignitaries who flew to Zurich for the signing of the normalization deal in October were U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, and EU foreign-policy chief Javier Solana. All hoped the deal would lay the basis for a more peaceful era in the Caucasus by demonstrating that traditional foes can negotiate solutions.

The Armenian Foreign Ministry said Foreign Minister Eduard Nalbandian met with EU ambassadors to the country on April 22 to discuss relations between Yerevan and Ankara.

U.S. President Barack Obama also made a personal effort to kick-start the frozen accord when he held a meeting with Sarkisian and Erdogan in Washington on the sidelines of this month's nuclear-security summit.

U.S. State Department spokesman Philip Crowley said the Obama administration still hopes that ties between the two countries can be normalized. He said Washington had anticipated the Armenian decision.

"I think we're encouraged that neither side has walked away from the process, but I think we all recognize that we'll just need some time to perhaps create some new momentum that allows the process to move forward," Crowley said. "This is something that the Armenians had hinted to us that they were prepared to do, so we're not surprised by the announcement."

But if the Armenian move is not intended as a death blow for the deal, it would still be a sobering measure of how much more work the two sides -- and the foreign mediators -- yet have to do if the accord is ever to become a reality.

written by Charles Recknagel in Prague based on contributions from RFE/RL's Armenian Service and correspondent Satik Vantsian; also with additional agency reports
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Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: James from: CA, USA
April 22, 2010 16:36
Turkey ended this process with its attempt at implementing preconditions after the signing of the protocols. It was about time Armenia stepped away from this Turkish charade.
In Response

by: Levon
April 23, 2010 10:09
The precondition or condition of Turkey was not put after the signing, but before the signing. The protocols were signed in Oct 2009. But Erdogan made his famous speech in the Azerbaijani parliament in May 2009 in which he categorically excluded opening of the borders without a breakthrough on the Nagorno-Karabakh process.
In Response

by: Rudy from: Canada
May 10, 2010 23:48
Then he changed his mind in October. Then he changed his mind again.

Domestic politics in Turkey must first deal with its internal issues. It has major issues to contend with inside the country. At the same time, Turkey can pursue a foreign policy, but it must be untethered from the powerful military hawks who have so much influence there.

by: Heinz
April 22, 2010 20:32
This move is directly related to Obama's expected speech on 24 April. If Obama does not pronounce the word 'genocide' with the argument that it can damage the ongoing process, Armenians would see it as a failure and blame Sargsyan, who initiated the TR-ARM process, for that.

On substance tere is not much new. Armenia has put the protocols on hold even before this formal statement. They wanted Turkey ratify first. With the recent move they have neither annuled the protocols, nor quited the process. So nothing new.

by: ed
April 23, 2010 08:48


Turkish parliament can wait another 20 or 30 years with the ratification of these two pro Turkish protocols. Turkey got with these two protocols what she wanted the rest is just technical problems. Announcement of president Sarkisian to suspend the ratification of protocols is NON sense and nothing but misleading the Armenian Nation! Indeed the administration of Sarkisain has accepted just another Turkish precondition. To freeze the ratification of protocols and so on !

Turkey can be very happy with Sarkisians´s administration and live with the announcement of president Sarkisian.



by: Edmond
April 23, 2010 09:06
As an Armenian I am ashamed! Let us be honest
Opening of border with Turkey will not solve one of the biggest enemy and problem of Armenia and Armenian society: this is the well widespread corruption and mismanagement!

As an Armenian I call on President Sarkisan and his administration to fight the corruption and well organized crimes and bureaucracy in towns , villages and within public service , instead being a tool in the hand of Turkey and enemies of Armenian people! By my own experience am I 100% convinced that from the head of villages till the top officials (and people around them) are mostly corrupt, corrupt and corrupt and lack of any professional! These is almost not possible to make even a small investment or to just build a house in a village , without being forced to pay extra money to the head of villages or to his family members or other officials!
In Response

by: Reader from: Europe-Armenia
April 23, 2010 12:49
Your are not Armenia, you don't know nothing about Armenia, yes it was, it was a in 1990..

by: vlad from: US - Moldova
April 23, 2010 12:00
Decision is related to Obama's speech on April 24.

Obama and Clinton during elections got support of the US Armenian community promising to recognize Armenian genocide. Both broke promise. Their main argument was that recognition would endanger normalization of relations between Turkey and Armenia.

Now when there is no normalization it would be hard for democrats to justify breaking the promises. November elections are coming and very disappointed Armenian community might vote for Republicans who this turn around are promising recognition.

If Obama does not recognize it tomorrow I vote for a Republican too.

by: reader from: Europe
April 23, 2010 12:46
Turkey is not ready to continue the initiated process and make progress without preconditions, in accordance with the letter Protocols.
Turkish practice at any price to slip the date of April 24 is simply unacceptable.
Armenia will leave its signature on the protocol, because we want to preserve the possibility of normalization of relations, because we want peace. Our political goal of normalization of Armenian-Turkish relations remain in force. We will consider the possibility of moving forward, when we see that in Turkey, is there a conducive atmosphere where we will see in Ankara leadership, once again ready to normalize relations.

by: Orhan Ertugruloglu from: the Netherlands
April 23, 2010 16:26
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the protocols could not be implemented until Armenia withdrew from Nagorno-Karabakh, which it has held since the war. He has brought this to the agenda as a protest of the violation of international law and human rights in the region, not because of solidarity between Turkey and Azerbaijan.
Armenia on the other hand said the normalization accord made no mention of the conflict between Yerevan and Baku. Because Armenia does not want to be viewed as an agressor state in the international community which is the case. The international organizations like UNSC were inactive so far concerning the occupation of 20 percent of Azeri territory and the displacement of more than 1 million refugees from their homelands.
In Response

by: Alex Mikoyan from: Seattle
April 24, 2010 02:11
Orhan, your country is occupying 37% of Cyprus' territory, has stationed 30,000+ troops there, and has brought along 150,000 colonists. Which is more than the entire population of the NKR today.

Don't be a hypocrite.

By the way, that figure of one million refugees includes 400,000 Armenian refugees from Azerbaijan. Guess they failed to you that, huh?
In Response

by: Orhan Ertugruloglu from: the Netherlands
April 25, 2010 14:56
Turkey's contractual intervention in Cyprus was based on London and Zurich Agreements. Thanks to this contractual intervention Turkey saved the North from ethnic cleansing. On the other hand due to unilateral Armenian invasion of Azeri territories more than a million Azeri's were wiped out form their villages and fatherland.
Watch your language please.
In Response

by: Zvonimir from: Infidel City
May 12, 2010 14:04
Turkey/Ottoman Empire committed atrocities unmatched by ANY colonial power ANYWHERE, EVER. Vile stuff, truly. To be proud of that record makes you an individual to be pitied. Turkey (and genocide deniers like you) should man up, fess up and move on.

by: Reader
April 26, 2010 05:07
Orhan Ertugruloglu i think you forget or don't wont remember 1988 Sumgait.

The Sumgait pogrom (also known as the Sumgait Massacre or February Events) was an Azeri-led pogrom that targeted the Armenian population of the seaside town of Sumgait (Azerbaijani: Sumqayıt) in Soviet Azerbaijan during February 1988. On February 27, 1988, large mobs made up of ethnic Azeris formed into groups that went on to attack and kill Armenians both on the streets and in their apartments; widespread looting and a general lack of concern from police officers allowed the situation to worsen.

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