Yerevan revokes Armenian-Turkish Protocols, border to remain sealed
Yerevan has annulled the Armenian-Turkish Protocols aimed at normalizing relations between the two countries.
The Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan said that the 2009 Protocols had proved to be ‘absolutely useless’ and inefficient and that Armenia should consequently give up on them.
“When I initiated the process of normalizing relations between Armenia and Turkey without any preconditions, I was guided by a vision of building a safer and harmonious future in the region. Armenia did its best in order not to leave the burden of settling Armenia-Turkey interstate relations to future generations.
“However, in the nine years after the signing of the protocols, Ankara has failed to take any steps to ratify them and allow them to take effect. It went back to insisting on its ill-advised preconditions, leaving no doubt that it is not going to implement this process,” said Serzh Sargsyan.
Turkey has set forth two preconditions:
- Armenia should stop demanding recognition of the Armenian genocide by Turkey. This condition had been voiced long before the Protocols were signed in Zurich;
- The Armenia-Turkey relations can be improved only after the Karabakh conflict has been resolved. This condition, aimed at supporting Azerbaijan’s interests, was voiced after the signing of the Protocols.
Armenia was led to sign the Protocols despite the first precondition set by Turkey. However, when the other condition was put forward after the signing of the Protocols, the ratification process stalled. Armenian experts say there is no way the condition can be fulfilled, and that under the situation, being as it is, Armenia has had no choice other than to stop this process.
“The Protocols cannot be kept forever in the president’s desk drawer in the Turkish parliament. Anyway, Armenia has benefited from this process because the world community has now seen that Turkey has failed to keep its promise and is refusing to comply with its international commitments,” said David Shahnazaryan, ex-chief of the Armenian National Security Service and an analyst at the Center for Regional Studies.
However, Armenian experts have a different opinion. They believe that this process shouldn’t have been launched in the first place since it was doomed to failure from the start.
“The protocols have done harm to Armenia. They’ve served the interests of Turkey, leaving in the archives yet another international document against Armenia. A victory achieved through a diplomatic defeat is a rather interesting and innovative position, which only Yerevan believes in. If the ideologists behind the Armenian-Turkish Protocols had known the history, they would have understood that there’s but one principle Turkey respects – the principle of disregarding any agreements,” said Hayk Martirosyan, a political analyst.
Turkey de-facto recognized the independence of Armenia in 1991, though it has refused to establish diplomatic relations with Armenia up until now. In 1993, Turkey unilaterally closed its air and land borders with Armenia. However, the air border was reopened in 1995 under the pressure from the world community. The land border remains closed. The reopening of the Armenian-Turkish border was one of the things envisaged by the Zürich Protocols.
Background of signing and cancelling the Protocols
An unprecedented event happened in the history of Armenian-Turkish relations on 6 September 2008. The Turkish President Abdulla Gul arrived in Armenia to attend a football match between the two countries’ national teams together with his Armenian counterpart. This visit laid the foundation for a process that was later called ‘football diplomacy’.
A year later, the Protocols were signed and submitted to the Turkish and Armenian Parliaments for ratification.
The Turkish Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, said in December 2009 that Ankara wouldn’t ratify the Protocols until the Karabakh conflict had been resolved. Ratification of the documents in the Turkish Parliament was put on hold.
The Armenian side, in turn, insisted that the Protocols be ratified without any preconditions. However, on 22 April 2010 the Armenian side decided to suspend the ratification process. Five years later, on 16 February 2015, the Armenian President recalled the Armenian-Turkish Protocols from the National Assembly (Parliament).
President Sargsyan sent a letter to the speaker of the National Assembly that said:
“At the outset of the process of normalization of the Armenian-Turkish relations without preconditions, we contemplated all possible scenarios. We were prepared for both a comprehensive rapprochement through ratification of the protocols and their failure. We had nothing to conceal, and it will be clear to the international community which is party to blame for the missed chance of unsealing what is the last closed border in Europe.”
President Serzh Sargsyan spoke about a possible annulment of the Armenian-Turkish Protocols at the 72nd session of the UN General Assembly last year:
“Now the time has come for additional explanations. The Turkish authorities are mistaken if they think that these documents can be held hostage forever and be ratified only when they find it convenient. The Protocols have been negotiated in present-day circumstances in order to find solutions to existing problems.
“Armenia will declare those two Protocols null and void, given the lack of any positive progress towards their implementation. Regrettably, we will enter the spring of 2018 without the Protocols that have proved futile.”