By Erik Davtyan (03/04/2015 issue of the CACI Analyst)
On February 16, Armenia's President Serzh Sargsyan addressed a letter to the Speaker of Armenia's National Assembly Galust Sahakyan, informing him about his decision to recall the Armenian-Turkish protocols from the National Assembly. In the letter, the President stated that "the absence of political will, distortions of the letter and spirit of the protocols by the Turkish authorities and continuous attempts to articulate preconditions." Sargsyan also reiterated that the Turkish policy of denial and history revision was intensified on the eve of the Armenian Genocide Centennial. In 2009, Armenia and Turkey signed two protocols on the establishment of diplomatic relations and on the development of relations. However, the ratification process was halted and the prospect of new negotiations and agreements is negligible.
As Armenia prepares to commemorate the centennial of the Armenian genocide, contacts between Armenian and Turkish authorities are taking on highly negative overtones. On January 29, the State Commission on the Coordination of Events Dedicated to the 100th Anniversary of the Armenian Genocide issued a pan-Armenian declaration calling upon Turkey and other states to recognize and condemn the genocide, and declares Armenia's intention to present a package of legal claims against Turkey.
The recall of the two protocols obtained reactions from Armenian as well as Turkish high officials. Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesperson Tanju Bilgic qualified this step as an "insincere and unstable position" towards the protocols. As for Armenia's official position, Deputy Foreign Minister Shavarsh Kocharyan explained in an interview to Armenia's Public Television that the recall was a clear message to the international community (including Turkey), aiming to stress the unacceptability of the Turkish policy of "denial and preconditions." Taking into consideration the fact that Turkey has recently launched new initiatives regarding the 100th anniversary of the battle of Gallipoli, Kocharyan believes that the recall of the protocols was quite logical.
On the eve of the Armenian Genocide Centennial, almost all steps taken by the Armenian authorities are highly welcomed among the Armenian public. Boris Navasardyan, chairman of the Yerevan Press Club, said that the recall of the protocols is widely perceived as a "quite justified attitude." According to politologist Alexander Markarov, the protocols were de facto recalled much earlier, so this decision de jure put an end to the whole process that kicked off in 2008 in the framework of "football diplomacy".
When signing the protocols in Zürich, both Turkey and Armenia wanted to express their willingness to restore their diplomatic relations. However, after six years, the ambiguous future of the protocols does not play in Armenia's favor, especially after Sargsyan toughened Armenia's official position on the Armenian Genocide issue. The deputy director of the Caucasus Institute, Sergey Minasyan, thinks that in terms of both Armenia's foreign and domestic policy, there was no need to keeping the protocols in the National Assembly.
Experts and politicians believe that the protocols contradict the pan-Armenian declaration issued at the end of January. Edmon Marukyan, a deputy of Armenia's National Assembly, as well as the Director of the Armenian Genocide Museum & Institute Hayk Demoyan, say that the logic of the Zürich protocols did not correspond to that of the pan-Armenian declaration, so there was no doubt that President Sargsyan would take that step.
Though there are no contradictory opinions on this issue, some political parties call for a much tougher stance regarding the Zürich protocols. Giro Manoyan, a bureau member of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF), says that "this is a welcome step, but is not enough: it is necessary to completely neutralize and recall the signatures." Representatives of the Armenian Diaspora, which plays a key role in promoting Armenian national interests, including the international recognition of the Genocide, has always condemned any attempt to reconcile relations between Armenia and Turkey. According to the Executive Director of the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) Aram Hamparian, "Armenia should never have signed these one-sided agreements." As for the recall of the protocols, Hamparian believes that the withdrawal "represents a step in the right direction – one that needs to be followed immediately by the next logical step of withdrawing Armenia's signature from these Ankara-inspired accords".