ISTANBUL: Top Armenian official emphasizes Turkey role in region

Hurriyet, Turkey
Feb 14 2010

Top Armenian official emphasizes Turkey role in region

Sunday, February 14, 2010
İlhan TANIR, Washington ` Hürriyet Daily News

A leading Washington think tank, the Center for Strategic and
International Studies, or CSIS, hosted Vigen Sarkisian, the deputy
chief of staff to Armenian President Serge Sarkisian for an event
entitled `The Prospects for Armenia-Turkey Normalization: The View
from Yerevan’ on Friday.

The official, after going over the steps made toward the
Turkish-Armenian normalization process at the CSIS podium, gave his
evaluation on how the process could progress in the near future.
Sarkisian emphasized the importance of moving the process along as
quickly as possible, saying the longer the present protocols remain
before the respective parliaments, the less likely they are to be
ratified.

The deputy chief of staff to the Armenian president also emphasized
Turkey’s influence in the region, arguing the process of normalization
is a chance for Turkey to gain more voice in the South Caucasus.
Sarkisian said, while Turkey has relations that are `excellent’ with
Georgia and like `brothers’ with Azerbaijan, it could not play any
role in the South Caucasus so long as it lacked diplomatic relations
with Armenia. He said if the border between Armenia and Turkey is
opened, it will give Turkey greater leverage to influence the
resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

When asked if Armenia might proceed with ratification prior to the
Turkish government’s submission of the protocols to the Turkish
Parliament, Sarkisian said it would be politically impossible for his
government to move forward with ratification without Turkey doing so,
either prior to or in tandem with the Armenian parliament. Sarkisian
repeated his president’s guarantee: if the Turkish Parliament ratifies
the protocols without reservations or conditions, the Armenian
parliament will do likewise. Sarkisian pointed out the Armenian
government had already taken a great risk politically in backing the
protocols, as the ruling parliamentary coalition, led by his party,
lost the Dashnak party as a partner specifically because of their
opposition to the protocols. Sarkisian repeatedly opposed linking the
protocols to any preconditions, particularly to the Nagorno-Karabakh
dispute with Azerbaijan.

Responding to an official from the Turkish embassy in Washington,
Sarkisian said the Armenian Constitutional Court ruling did not alter
the content of the protocols. The court is required to decide simply
whether the treaty is in line with the constitution of the republic or
is contrary to the constitution. The court ruled there is no
contradiction, and Sarkisian added that this development was seen as a
positive step by the United States, Russia and other European
countries.

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