SargisianThreatens to Scrap Turkish-Armenian Accords


YEREVAN (RFE/RL) — President Serge Sargisian has threatened to formally annul Armenia’s normalization agreements with Turkey if Ankara continues to link their parliamentary ratification with the Nagorno-Karabagh conflict.

In an interview with the Ekho Moskvy radio station aired late last Wednesday, healso said that Armenia is prepared for another war with Azerbaijan and insisted that Karabagh’s final status be determined by the disputed territory’s predominantly Armenian population.

Sargisian made clear that the stalled process of Turkish-Armenian normalization could resume only if Turkey’s parliament ratifies “without preconditions” the protocols signed by the two governments in October 2009. “I therefore see no point in starting new negotiations,” he said. “The only continuation can be the ratification of those protocols by Turkey’s parliament.”

“If all continues like this, it is possible that the only way out for us will be the withdrawal of our signature from those protocols, and in that case, those protocols will have no legal force anymore, even after being ratified by Turkey,” he warned.

Shortly after the signing of the protocols in Zurich attended by top diplomats from the United States, Europe and Russia, Ankara made clear that the Turkish parliament will not ratify them without decisive progress in the Karabagh peace process.

Azerbaijan, which has been highly critical of the Turkish-Armenian rapprochement, welcomed this linkage.

Sargisian responded by freezing the process of protocol ratification by Armenia’s parliament in late April. In a televised address to the nation, he said he decided not to scrap the agreements altogether at the request of the US and other foreign powers. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton praised this stance as “very statesmanlike” when she visited Yerevan in July.

The Armenian president raised the temperature in the dispute with Ankara during a state visit to Cyprus last week. Addressing the divided island’s parliament, he accused the Turks of “destroying” the normalization process and denounced their perceived efforts to take on a leadership role in the region.

Sargisian similarly blasted Turkish foreign policy in the Ekho Moskvy interview. “The policy of ‘zero problems’ [with neighbors] declared by the Turks amounts to looking for solutions only beneficial for Turkey,” he said.

“We do realize that Turkey is a big state, that the Turkish economy has grown strongly in recent years, that Turkey is a member of the G20 [group of nations.] But that doesn’t mean they can act like our mentors. They are not our instructors,” he added.

Turning to the Karabagh dispute, Sargisian said that the only way to resolve it is to eventually hold a referendum on self-determination in Karabagh and again denounced Azerbaijani threats of military action. “We are prepared for any development of events,” he said when asked about the possibility of renewed large-scale fighting.

Sargisian further noted that he thinks Russia is capable of preventing another Armenian-Azerbaijani war. “Given Russia’s big weight and possibilities in our region, our expectations from it are very high,” he said.

Senior members of Sargisian’s Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) have claimed in recent months that a new Russian-Armenian defense accord signed in August will discourage Azerbaijan from attempting a military solution to the dispute. They say Moscow pledged to openly side with the Armenians in case of the war. Russian leaders have not confirmed this, however.