ANKARA: April 24 Looms Over Protocols


Feb 15 2010

About the same time every year in Washington, a guessing game starts to
spin over April 24, the traditional date of commemoration of the tragic
events of World War I for Armenians. Whether there will be a resolution
passed in the American Congress recognizing this day as a genocide
or whether the president of the United States will avow the day as
such, the tension rises, especially between the Armenian and Turkish
diasporas, as well as in trilateral Turkish-Armenian-U.S. relations.

However, "the situation this year is much different than the past,"
according to one high Turkish diplomat because of the normalization
process between Turkey and Armenia.

The normalization process between Turkey and Armenia, which started
with "football diplomacy" more than a year ago, has reached some
successes with the signing of the protocols by the foreign ministers
of Turkey and Armenia in front of the Minsk Group representatives
last October. Since then, the protocols, in accordance with the
Armenian constitution and likewise by Turkey, have been waiting for
ratification in both countries’ parliaments.

The protocols were already submitted to the Armenian Parliament by
President Serge Sarkisian to formally be ratified last week after the
Armenia’s constitutional court found the protocols to be in conformity
with the constitution, even though the Turkish government saw the
preambles to the court’s decision as impairing the spirit of protocols.

Nevertheless, after Armenia’s move on the ratification process, the
pressure has mounted on the Turkish Parliament to reciprocate. Turkish
officials insist that the ratification process would move forward if
there is progress on the Karabakh issue. However, since the mentioned
issue is not referenced as a pre-condition in the protocols, Turkey
has little to make a solid argument. The same Turkish official, who
is well positioned to know the developments first hand, stated that
"even though the Karabakh issue is not on the protocols, it is a huge
psychological concern that the Turkish side has to see some progress
to move forward."

There are several factors for Turkey’s plight going forward to
April 24:

1. Mr. Vigen Sarkisian, deputy chief of staff to Armenian President
Sarkisian, stated repeatedly during a speech last Friday at a meeting
organized by the Russia/Eurasian Program at the Center for Strategic
and International Studies, or CSIS, that Armenia does not recognize
the Karabakh conflict as a pre-condition for the protocols.

2. President Sarkisian will guarantee the ratification of protocols
in the Armenian parliament if the Turkish Parliament does so, as
Vigen Sarkisian pointed out. Therefore, while Turkey is unable to
push the Armenian side to show goodwill or to make progress to end
the occupation of Nagorno-Karabakh – although the sovereignty and
territorial integrity of Azerbaijan was reaffirmed by the United
Nations in several resolution (#822, #853, #874 and #884) – Turkey,
itself feels compelled to display progress on the ratification process,
since the Armenian side is seemingly moving on in its parliament.

Bulent Alirıza, director of the Turkey program at CSIS, noted Turkey
will not move on the protocols without movement on Karabakh. He
said this was recently confirmed by Murat Mercan, chairman of the
Turkish Parliament’s Commission of Foreign Affairs, who openly
stated the commission which he chairs does not have any timetable
or expectations to move forward on the ratification process unless
there is such movement.

3. On the American front, Howard Berman, the Democratic chairman of
the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said a week ago he intended to
call a committee vote on March 4 on the non-binding resolution urging
President Barack Obama to describe the 1915 tragedy during the late
days of the Ottoman Empire as a genocide.

Following this half-already-expected and timely development, contrary
to what Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu found a surprising
timing a couple of weeks ago, Mr. Feridun Sinirlioglu, a Turkish
foreign ministry official, came to Washington to hold talks at the
U.S. State Department and expected to state that the vote at the
commission will further damage the Turkey-Armenia reconciliation
process that was already damaged due to the recent decision by the
Armenia’s constitutional court.

4. The head of European and Eurasian Affairs, Mr. Philip Gordon,
contrary to the U.S. State Department’s attitude in the past, did not
oppose outright the "intention" of Berman to bring the resolution to
the Foreign Relations Sub-Committee in early March. Mr. Gordon, as a
co-author of a book on Turkey, also stated a couple of weeks ago the
Armenian constitutional court’s decision was a step forward for the
reconciliation process, as opposed to the fierce outcry from Turkey.

5. According to one White House reporter in Washington, an official
from the White House stated recently that during the meeting between
Obama and Erdogan in the Oval Office in early December, Erdogan was
told that the normalization process has to go forward, otherwise
April 24 might be a difficult time for especially Turkey this year.

6. As if all these developments were not enough, Vigen Sarkisian,
during the same speech at the CSIS, stated although "the deadlines are
not good for diplomacy for it limits the flexibility of the countries,"
so far, about all the progress between the two countries relating to
the normalization process has been achieved due to different deadlines,
such as the dates of the football games or the last April 24, which
urged Turkey to finalize a road map just two days prior to Obama’s
commemoration statement.

Therefore, Mr. Sarkisian argued on behalf of the Armenian president
that the deadline is very useful so far for the normalization
process between Turkey and Armenia and went on to state that April
24 was an important "flag-post" for measuring progress, meaning
another deadline for Turkey to show that they are proceeding on the
ratification process. However, he also added that domestic political
considerations in Turkey make it highly unlikely that there will be
any progress on the protocols in Parliament between at least March
and May of this year.

A young diplomat Vigen Sarkisyan’s performance while elaborating
Armenian’s position was pretty well at the CSIS, displaying the
confidence that the Armenian side possesses going forward to April 24.

Davutoglu argues in his book titled "Strategic Depth", pg 31: "if the
tactical steps are not being harmonized toward to a strategic drift,
that would change significantly the meaning and calibre of the whole
strategic drift in time." (translation by myself)

Did Mr. Davutoglu take the tactical steps cautiously so far and know
where this process is going? Will Turkey be blamed as a spoiler
for it puts forward the Karabakh conflict as a pre-condition for
the normalization process? What happens if the genocide resolution
passed in the American Congress and US President Obama recognizes
it as such on April 24 because the rapprochement between Turkey and
Armenia is stalled?

From: Emil Lazarian | Ararat NewsPress

Emil Lazarian

“I should like to see any power of the world destroy this race, this small tribe of unimportant people, whose wars have all been fought and lost, whose structures have crumbled, literature is unread, music is unheard, and prayers are no more answered. Go ahead, destroy Armenia . See if you can do it. Send them into the desert without bread or water. Burn their homes and churches. Then see if they will not laugh, sing and pray again. For when two of them meet anywhere in the world, see if they will not create a New Armenia.” - WS