By Harut Sassounian
Publisher, The California Courier
In earlier columns, I pointed out Turkey’s deceptive designs in negotiating and signing the Protocols with Armenia on October 10, 2009.
In addition to planning to deceive Armenia and international public opinion, Turkish leaders tried to mislead their closest ally, Azerbaijan, and the Turkish public, about the potential benefits of the Protocols. Even though the Protocols were clearly in Turkey’s interest, its leaders tried to oversell the benefits of the negotiated agreement in order to overcome possible objections from critics at home and abroad, particularly Azerbaijan.
As expected, the Erdogan government did get into trouble with Azerbaijan when Pres. Ilham Aliyev complained loudly that by planning to open the border with Armenia, Turkey would be abandoning its "Little Brother" which would remove the key incentive for Armenia to negotiate the return of Karabagh (Artsakh). Azerbaijani officials, not appeased by Turkish assurances, retaliated by tripling the price of gas exported to Turkey, taking down Turkish flags from public places, banning Turkish movies and songs from Azeri TV, and shutting down Turkish-financed mosques in Baku!
Meanwhile, opposition forces in Turkey, seeing a golden opportunity to diminish Prime Minister Erdogan’s Parliamentary majority, immediately accused him of betraying Turkey’s national interests by siding with their perennial Armenian enemies, rather than with their Azeri brothers!
In order to counter such accusations, Turkish leaders were forced to make a series of unsubstantiated claims, exaggerating the benefits of the Protocols to both Azerbaijan and Turkey. They assured the Azeris that they would pressure Armenia into returning Artsakh to Azerbaijan before the Turkish Parliament would ratify the Protocols and normalize relations with Armenia. Furthermore, Turkish officials reassured their own public that the Protocols would put an end to "Armenian claims" of genocide and territorial demands in Eastern Turkey.
The Turkish and Azeri publics were not fooled by Ankara’s misrepresentation of the Protocols. Here are ten major reasons why the Turkish Parliament could refuse to ratify the Protocols:
1) Despite repeated announcements by Gul, Erdogan and Davutoglu that the resolution of the Artsakh conflict is a precondition for the ratification of the Protocols, the United States, Russia, the European Union as well as Armenia have repeatedly pointed out that there is no such stipulation in the Protocols. In addition, they have counseled against linking the two issues or holding hostage the negotiations on the Artsakh conflict to the ratification of the Protocols. Armenia has steadfastly refused to link the Protocols to the Artsakh issue.
2) There is no truth to the Turkish claim that the Protocols would put an end to Armenia’s pursuit of genocide recognition and its acknowledgment by third countries. It is also untrue that the Protocols would set up a mechanism for the study of the Armenian Genocide. In fact, the Protocols have triggered renewed efforts by Armenians in recent weeks to seek acknowledgment of the Genocide by the British, Bulgarian, Israeli and Swedish Parliaments. Moreover, the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee has scheduled a vote on the Armenian Genocide resolution on March 4. A similar resolution is pending in the U.S. Senate.
3) Contrary to Turkish assertions, the “historical commission” mentioned in the Protocols would serve not as a genocide review board, but as a platform for Armenia to present demands for restitution from Turkey.
4) The Turkish claim that the Protocols would end Armenian territorial demands is belied by the fact that no mention is made of any past treaty that requires Armenia to renounce such rights. Rather than abandoning Artsakh or Western Armenia, Pres. Sargsyan raised for the first time in his last week remarks the depopulation of the Armenian region of Nakhichevan, after Soviet authorities relinquished it to Azerbaijan.
5) Armenia and the major powers have rejected Turkish demands that the Armenian Constitutional Court “correct” its January 12, 2010 ruling which limited Turkey’s exaggerated interpretations of the Protocols. The Court insisted that the pursuit of Genocide recognition cannot be abandoned, and Artsakh’s status cannot be negotiated with Turkey due to the bilateral nature of the Protocols.
6) Turkish leaders have no reason to protest against the Armenian Court’s reference to the Preamble of the Constitution on pursuing the recognition of the Armenian Genocide. This Preamble is based on Article 11 of Armenia’s Declaration of Independence which has existed since 1990, long before Turkey first opened its border with Armenia. Indeed, Turkey’s leaders were well aware of this provision before signing the Protocols in 2009.
7) Turkish officials have falsely stated that the Protocols acknowledge the Treaty of Kars of 1921, which Soviet Armenia was forced to sign. There is no reference to the Kars Treaty in the Protocols. Furthermore, the Constitutional Court of Armenia ruled that only those treaties that have been ratified by the present Republic of Armenia are valid.
8) Rather than achieving its lofty objective of "zero-problems with neighbors," the Turkish government, by signing the Protocols, has created a serious rift with neighboring Azerbaijan, where no problem existed before!
9) It is noteworthy that Turkish officials have not expressed any objection to Armenia’s demand that Turkey be the first to ratify the Protocols. This is a humiliating imposition on Turkey as it implies -- for good reason -- Armenia’s lack of trust in Turkey!
10) Likewise, Turkish leaders have not responded to Armenia’s threat to rescind its signature should Turkey not ratify the Protocols by the end of March -- one month before April 24! This is yet another humiliating imposition by Armenia on a country whose leaders espouse grandiose neo-Ottoman fantasies!
The foregoing 10 points demonstrate a serious credibility gap between the Turkish government and its own public as well as the international community. Ankara has tried to deceive everyone within and outside Turkey by creating the false impression of wanting to normalize relations with Armenia. Turkish officials have no one but themselves to blame for this predicament. They thought that by bluffing they could extract more concessions from Armenia! It did not work. They have now fallen in their own trap and no one is too eager to rescue them!