YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–The opposition Armenian Revolutionary Federation denounced on Monday the U.S. State Department for welcoming an Armenian Constitutional Court ruling on Turkey that has sparked a diplomatic dispute between Yerevan and Ankara, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported.
ARF leaders said the United States is interfering in Armenia’s internal affairs and pressuring Yerevan to unconditionally implement the controversial Turkish-Armenian agreements which is considers by Armenian in the homeland and Diaspora to be a sellout to Turkey.
While upholding the constitutionality of the two “protocols,” the Constitutional Court ruled on January 12 that they place no obligations on Armenia with regard to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and cannot inhibit its pursuit of greater international recognition of the Armenian genocide.
The ARF welcomed this court’s interpretation of the U.S.-backed protocols, saying that the Armenian parliament should include the corresponding reservations if it were to ratify the agreements. Its top representatives said in particular that the court effectively invalidated a protocol clause that commits Armenia to explicitly recognizing the existing border with Turkey.
The Turkish government has likewise claimed that the ruling runs counter to the letter and spirit of the deal and jeopardizes its implementation by Turkey. Armenia’s leadership has brushed aside these claims, accusing Ankara of seeking “artificial pretexts” for delaying its parliamentary ratification.
U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Philip Gordon said on Friday that Washington regards the judgment as a “positive step forward in the ratification process of the normalization protocols” that “does not appear to limit or qualify them in any way.” Armenian pro-government politicians and media were quick to welcome the U.S. reaction as a crucial endorsement of Yerevan’s position in the dispute.
“This U.S. statement is an unacceptable interference in Armenia’s internal affairs,” said Giro Manoyan, the party’s chief foreign policy spokesman, accusing Washington of pressuring Yerevan into signing the agreements.
The Constitutional Court ruling is an effective disagreement between the Executive and the Judicial branches, which requires the court’s reservations to be submitted with the agreements, Manoyan said. He described Washington’s assertion that the court ruling paves the way for an unconditional ratification as “a flagrant disregard towards the Armenian Constitutional Court’s decision.”
“When a representative of a foreign state tries to teach us some lessons I don’t think that is acceptable,” Manoyan told RFE/RL.
Artsvik Minasian, a senior ARF member, agreed with Manoyan. “It was a statement made a bit prematurely, and I don’t think that it is only aimed at somehow benefiting Armenia,” he said, commenting on Gordon’s remarks. “What is more, I think that was a form of pressure on Armenia aimed at making sure that we don’t ratify the protocols with reservations,” he told RFE/RL.
Minasian said the ARF has drafted legal amendments that would empower Armenia’s parliament to ratify international treaties and agreements signed by the executive branch with conditions or reservations. He said they will be presented this week to 13 other mostly small opposition groups aligned in an ARF-led coalition opposed to the protocols.
Leaders of those parties met at the ARF headquarters in Yerevan over the weekend to discuss their further actions. One of them, Armen Martirosian of the Heritage party said he believed that the parliament majority loyal to President Serzh Sarkisian will unconditionally endorse the protocols should they be put to the vote and would not respect the legislation.
A deputy chairman of Sarkisian’s Republican Party of Armenia, which has a clear majority in the National Assembly, confirmed that. “If we add reservations to the protocols, the Turks will never ratify them,” Razmik Zohrabian told RFE/RL. “We should therefore avoid any reservations.”