YEREVAN (Hurriyet)—Agreements signed by Turkey and Armenia to establish diplomatic relations and open their sealed border risk becoming null and void if Turkey insists on making the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict a precondition to its ratification of the protocols, Armenia’s Prime Minister told the Turkish Hurriyet Daily in an interview conducted in Yerevan last week.
“We very much hope the Turkish Parliament will not take a step that would mean a miscarriage of the agreements. If this happens, our parliament would [essentially declare] the protocols to be null and void, Tigran Sargsyan was quoted by the Hurriyet as saying. “We would be back to square one.”
In a move to normalize relations, the two countries signed two important documents in October but these have not yet been ratified by the two countries’ parliaments. Turkey has held up the document from going to a vote in its parliament, with its prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, demanding Armenia first agree to a settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict favoring its ally Azerbaijan.
“Our position has not changed. Judging from Prime Minister Erdogan’s statements, it seems that the Turkish position has shifted, which means that the Turkish Parliament may propose certain preconditions,” Sargsyan said.
“If Turkey comes up with preconditions, Armenia would be free to do so as well,” he said, citing genocide recognition and not entering any negotiations until borders are opened as examples. He also emphasized that the Turks were originally responsible for closing the border.
If the process fails because of Turkey’s preconditions, Sargsyan said, “Turkey will have to explain to [international powers] why it has broken its own agreement. Turkey’s credibility will be at stake. It would be questionable to sit down with Turkey again.”
“We are not playing any games with Turkey, we are committed to an open and transparent foreign policy, we do not make different statements to others and we do not see an alternative to this process,” he added.
When asked about the deadline for the ratification of the protocols, Sargsyan refrained from giving an exact timeframe but urged “Turkey not to stall the process artificially.”
“[Our] clear deadline is the Turkish legislation. We are closely following this process. If we observe that the Turkish Parliament is not stalling the process, we will make our own conclusions,” Sargsyan said.
The Turkish government has already submitted the protocols to its Parliament for broad discussions in the relevant sub-commissions. Armenia, however, must first get the approval of its Constitutional Court before proceeding with parliamentary ratification. The court is set to announce its verdict on January 12.
On the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, Sargsyan said the pace of the negotiations depended on Baku. Criticizing the Azerbaijani leadership for making “war calls,” he said, “We have to be ready for war as history taught us.”
“The best way to prevent war is to be ready for it. If there is any time that Azerbaijanis feel that we are not ready for war, nothing will stop them from breaking the peace, which is why we are not afraid. What would we lose other than our chains?” Sargsyan said.
Sargsyan said that Turkey, a key ally to Azerbaijan, could not play a role on the solution of the Karabakh conflict because it was by nature a non-neutral actor. He also drew attention to the risks of linking Turkish-Armenian rapprochement with the Karabakh process.
“The first is that it will not contribute in any way to the resolution of the Karabakh issue, on the contrary, it will impede it since Turkey is not neutral. Secondly it will impede with the development of our relations, which is neither in Turkey’s nor our interest,” he said.
“The third dimension is that Erdogan was pretty tough this time [in Washington]. The impression is that he might have wanted to create an equilibrium between the acknowledgements of no preconditions in the protocols,” Sargsyan said.
Sargsyan emphasized that the Armenian Genocide is a pivotal issue for Armenians and the government, but said the Armenian people should overcome the century long animosity toward Turkey.
“I have even stated that in our parliament. The attitude of our people toward Turks and Turkey needs to change, however difficult that may be. Our foreign policy should not be anti-Turkish. It should be pro-Armenian. We need to be able to change the attitude of our nation,” he said.
Sargsyan said one of the most important tools in developing ties between the two countries is public acknowledgement.
“In my opinion, the eventual recognition of the genocide will help Turkish society break through. This is the road to becoming a full-fledged member of the European Union. Its psychological complex must be overcome,” Sargsyan said.
“The Germans succeeded in overcoming their complex, helping their society to unprecedented social and economic development,” he said.