Editorial: Protocol Negotiations Ongoing


People both in Armenia and the diaspora are focusing heavily on the proposed Protocols between Armenia and Turkey, in their efforts to establish diplomatic ties.

The Protocols, announced on August 31, have been embraced by certain segments of the community, including the ADL Eastern District of US and Canada, the Armenian Assembly of America and the Armenian General Benevolent Union.

Some other segments in the community worry that the Armenian side, in the Protocols, is agreeing to pre-conditions dictated by Turkey, in order to establish relations. Successive Armenian governments have stressed the importance of establishing relations without preconditions. Those opponents, again both domestic and in the diaspora, suggest that the negotiations should be dropped regarding the Protocols and that in no time should they be signed.

The government of Turkey seems to provide some Diasporan Armenians with a chance to achieve what they want, namely, the dissolution of the negotiations on the Protocols on which the governments of Armenia and Turkey are working, with the help of the Swiss government and the US State Department.

Last week, during an interview, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan suggested that the Turkish-Armenian border would not open without the resolution of the Karabagh conflict and the status of Karabagh.
This week, the usually mild-mannered and genteel Armenian Foreign Minister Eduard Nalbandian, hit back hard, suggesting that the status of Nagorno Karabagh is not one of the topics that is up for discussion between Armenia and Turkey.

In fact, he concluded his remarks by suggesting that “If the authorities of current Turkey are not ready today to recognize the fact of the Genocide perpetrated in Ottoman Empire, they are at least obliged to respect the survivors of the Armenian Genocide and their descendants.”

The government of Armenia is trying hard to promote the importance of signing the Protocols after thorough negotiations have been carried out, and after the Armenian and Diasporan Armenian communities are well familiar with the protocols.

As part of this effort, the Armenian president, Serge Sargisian, is going to embark on a tour of the Middle East and the US, as well as Europe, in order to gauge the feelings of the diasporans. He also conducted last week a meeting with all the party leaders in Armenia.

The two issues that are most hotly opposed by members of the opposition, and have led to demonstrations inside and outside Armenia, are the establishment of an “impartial” commission to look at the history in a “scientific” manner, and then another which recognizes the current border between Armenia and Turkey. Armenians, of course, don’t need to study the issue more. The border, established in Soviet times, is unfortunately, for the time being, one that is used internationally, regardless of how we Armenians feel about it. Perhaps, the same historical commission can study the accuracy of the Turkish-Armenian border.

It is clear that the United States and the European Union are redoubling their efforts in order to settle the Turkish-Armenian issues and conflict. Theories proliferate with regard to why so much pressure at this particular junction. Sadly, the incoming Obama administration, so eagerly welcomed by all segments of the Armenian world, has shown just more of the same as the Bush administration with regard to Armenia. Matthew Bryza, who has represented the United States in the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Minsk Group, tasked with resolving the Karabagh issue, is about to be named US ambassador to Azerbaijan. The group has held many, many meetings and has often not chastised the Azeri government for flagrant violations of the cease-fire tentatively in place between itself and the Nagorno Karabagh Republic.

Opponents of the Protocols are free to disagree with the items; after all, Armenia is a democracy. However, they should not resort to scare tactics, suggesting that the status of Karabagh is going to be discussed, with the intent of handing it to the Azeris.

It is promising that President Serge Sargisian is listening to people with whom he disagrees on this issue, both in Armenia, and soon, in the diaspora. He and his administration face a difficult time and a difficult task. He deserves our respect and honest opinions. Where these Protocols end, it is not clear. It seems that Turkey seems to be forced into this uncomfortable marriage by the West and perhaps, they will opt out before the Armenians do.