Armenia: Yerevan growing more cautious on reconciliation with Turkey
|Publication Date||6 January 2010|
|Cite as||EurasiaNet, Armenia: Yerevan growing more cautious on reconciliation with Turkey, 6 January 2010, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4b966e6fc.html [accessed 1 May 2016]|
Marianna Grigoryan: 1/06/10
The Armenian-Turkish reconciliation process appears to be losing momentum. Recent statements made by Armenian leaders signal a toughening of Yerevan's stance, local analysts say.
The signing of the reconciliation protocols in October generated considerable opposition in both Armenia and Turkey.
In addition, the possibility of an Armenian-Turkish rapprochement has sown tension between Turkey and Azerbaijan, which is Ankara's traditional strategic ally and Yerevan's long-time foe.
Some analysts in Yerevan believe that President Serzh Sargsyan's administration may have underestimated the depth of domestic public suspicion of Turkey that is fueling opposition to the protocols. Thus, in recent weeks the administration has appeared increasingly hesitant to move forward. "I think the process is suspended," said Yervand Bozoyan, an independent political analyst. "Authorities [in Yerevan] were not quick to perceive what was going on in reality, but it's better late than never."
David Shahnazaryan, a senior figure in the main opposition movement, the Armenian National Congress, contended that the government is now scrambling to limit the domestic political damage. "Authorities are now seeking ways to alleviate the consequences of their mistakes," Shahnazaryan said.
Legislative ratification in both countries is required for the protocols to take force. Given the strong opposition in both countries, neither parliament seems eager to make the first move toward sealing the reconciliation deal. In recent weeks, officials in Yerevan have shifted away from an optimistic tone, focusing instead on perceived efforts by Turkey to place conditions on its ability to proceed with the rapprochement effort.
Armenian concerns rose following a December 7 meeting in Washington between Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and US President Barack Obama. Turkish officials confirmed that the Nagorno-Karabakh issue was a central feature of those discussions.
Afterwards, Erdogan hinted that some movement on the Karabakh peace process would be necessary in order for Turkey to ratify the Armenian-Turkish protocols. The assumption among many in Yerevan is that Turkey would need Armenia to make fresh concessions on the Karabakh question that would somehow benefit Azerbaijan.
In response to Erdogan's Washington comments, Armenian Prime Minister Tigran Sargsyan, in a December 19 interview published in the Hurriyet Daily News, cautioned that if Turkey tried to link Karabakh progress to ratification of the protocols then Armenia "would be free" to impose conditions of its own.
President Serzh Sargsyan in mid-December stated flatly that if Turkey proposed any sort of pre-condition for ratification, Yerevan would immediately abrogate the protocols. Meanwhile, Parliament Speaker Hovik Abrahamyan hinted during a late December news conference that Turkey would have to make the first ratification move.
If the Turkish parliament "ratifies the documents within reasonable terms and without preconditions, we will do the same," Abrahamyan said. "If not, our reaction will be appropriate."
January 12 could mark an important milestone in Armenia for the protocols, as that is the day that the country's Constitutional Court is expected to issue its ruling on the legality of the administration's decision to sign the protocols.
Tatul Hakobyan, an analyst at the Civilitas Foundation, believes that the Armenian government has been outmaneuvered by Ankara. Officials in Yerevan are now concentrating on finding a way to avoid assuming most of the blame, in the event the protocols do not secure ratification.
Some analysts believe the spreading pessimism concerning the reconciliation process is misplaced. One who remains optimistic is Suren Surenyants, a member of the political board of the opposition Republic Party. For him the recent Turkish maneuvering, as well as the sharp Armenian response, is part of the bargaining process. He expressed the belief that the protocols would be ratified by the end of March.
"Both parties are trying to harden their statements expecting to squeeze out most benefits from the process, which is normal," Surenyants told EurasiaNet.
Editor's Note: Marianna Grigoryan is a freelance reporter based in Yerevan.