As political parties and community organizations have come together to express a loud and collective disapproval of the dangerous protocols on Turkey-Armenia relations, one faction in the community—the Armenian Assembly of America—has opted for a route of dissention and has chosen to herald the protocols’ benefits as a cure all for Armenia’s ills and step forward for US interests in that area.
“I am not willing to call it quits at the outset,” said Peter Kezirian a spokesperson for the Armenian Assembly of America in an appearance on a live television panel last Sunday discussing the Armenia-Turkey relations protocols.
Mr. Kezirian was using that argument to fortify his—and his organization’s—belief that the protocols are meant to begin a long-awaited and much-needed process of normalizing relations between Turkey and Armenia and admonished all those opposing the protocols as doing the work of the enemy by, at the end of the day, pointing out the inherent flaws—dangers—of the documents.
On Sept. 2, the Assembly issued an announcement on the protocols saying “This announcement is consistent with the U.S. position that normalization of relations between Armenia and Turkey proceed without preconditions. Armenian authorities have also made it clear that no preconditions means just that—no linkage to progress on the Nagorno Karabakh peace talks and no conditions on affirmation of the Armenian Genocide, or debating whether a genocide occurred through a commission-style process.”
In expressing its wholehearted support for the protocols, the Assembly referred—and more importantly deferred—to the US State Department position on the matter, clearly signaling that the course the US administration has charted out for Armenia is the desired outcome for the Assembly.
Mr. Kezirian was quite adamant to reiterate these claims and inferred that only the Armenian government can determine what its “national interests” are, apparently, if, and only if, they are consistent with the US position.
By now we have all become accustomed to the Armenian Assembly’s posturing on issues of Armenian national interest. The vernacular used in their communications—both written and verbal—seems to be emanating from the State Department.
Memorable past instances of this have included:
Spearheading of the Turkish-Armenian Reconciliation Commission—TARC;
After brazenly claiming responsibility for the passage of Section 907, the provision in the Freedom Support Act that prohibited US aid to Azerbaijan until that country lifted its blockade of Armenia, the Assembly worked hard in supporting a waiver by the State Department;
Support for the nomination of Richard Hoagland as US ambassador to Armenia, because the US needed an ambassador there.
While we might have become accustomed to other instances of parroting the State Department line, the blind acceptance of the protocols as a set of documents that will guide Turkey and Armenia into a détente is as unacceptable as the protocols themselves.
Mr. Kezirian was eager to convince his television audience and fellow panelists that the protocols did not endanger the Karabakh peace process, despite Turkish foreign minister’s insistence that borders would not open without a resolution of the Karabakh conflict. As such, he also went on to justify that the mere fact that a protocol was being announced attested to the stipulation of principles of self-determination, which are conveniently omitted from the protocols. Instead, the provisions dictate that modern-day borders are to be recognized as valid under international law, a notion that is at odds with rights and title held by the Armenian Republic which have yet to be properly adjudicated. And if the principle of territorial integrity is to guide future development of relations, shouldn’t those rights be based on legal title, a basic pre-requisite to legal right, and not in fact the notion of what makes right, which Turkey has so artfully exercised.
Mr. Kezirian’s insistence that the Armenian government was prudent in agreeing to the protocols, which he called a “negotiated document,” not only cements the Armenian authorities’ blatant disregard for the Diaspora and what it stands for in the context of “national interests,” but it also goes to the State Department’s objective of decades to marginalize the voices that run counter to US policy interests.
In both instances Mr. Kezirian and the Armenian Assembly have undermined their own stated mission of allegedly being the largest Armenian advocacy organization in the US. First: by blindly toting the Armenian government’s position, with impunity towards the legal rights of the Armenian nation they have all but ceded to Turkish interests and undermined the Diaspora—the very entity that has maintained and preserved Armenian national interests since the Genocide and beyond the 1991 independence. Second: by vocally reiterating and constantly deferring to US policy, they have failed to advocate for the true aspirations of the Armenian-American community, those that are based on the solid foundation of law and justice.