For Armenians worldwide, Saturday, October 10, 2009, will be a dark day in Zurich, Switzerland. This day will become the Black Saturday in the annals of Armenian History, when an official representative of the Republic of Armenia places his official signature under the infamous twin protocols that are overwhelmingly rejected by the Armenian people both in Armenia and the Diaspora. These documents that are misleadingly represented as instruments for normalization of relations between Armenia and Turkey in fact constitute Armenia’s unconditional surrender to the Republic of Turkey without firing a single shot.
In Switzerland on this day, Turkey hopes to achieve what it failed to accomplish 86 years ago, when on July 24, 1923, in another Swiss city, it signed the Treaty of Lausanne. After months of chicanery, Turkish foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu makes this Turkish hope blatantly clear. During an interview on Thursday, he disclaimed any comparison between the 1923 Lausanne Treaty and the current protocols with Armenia, yet he indicated that the only reference that could be made to Lausanne was the fact that the protocols with Armenia would confirm Turkey’s borders as set out by the Lausanne Treaty.
Always the consummate master of deception, Mr. Davutoglu could not pass the chance to portray the protocol agreements as the culmination of a past legal instrument accepted under international law. As he is implying, the protocols do not reinstate the 1921 Kars Treaty, rather they complete the missing element in the Lausanne Treaty with respect to the borders between Turkey and Armenia. In other words, through these protocols one of the objectives of Turkish foreign policy is to rewrite the 86 year old treaty.
Whether Turkey can rewrite an established treaty is a matter of international law, irrespective of Mr. Davutoglu’s pettifogging. But he has many troubling reasons to try such revision on the Lausanne Treaty.
First, despite the widely held misconception, the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne did not and could not replace the 1920 Treaty of Sevres. The two were and are separate treaties involving different parties and different subject matters. Although the Sevres Treaty was not ratified and thus was not implemented, Turkish consent to be bound by the terms of this treaty are not voided by the subsequently and unrelated Treaty of Lausanne.
Second, as provided under international law the Lausanne Treaty did not and could not legally amend the Treaty of Sevres, because each treaty involved different signatories, as well as different purposes, scopes, objectives and contexts. In fact, at no place do the Lausanne Treaty provisions make any reference to any of the parties’ intention to amend or replace the Sevres Treaty.
Third, the Sevres Treaty was between the Allied Powers of World War I and Turkey; its objective was to establish peace by ending that part of the war that involved Turkey. It specifically addressed the conflict between Armenia and Turkey by providing reparations to Armenians, defining Armenia’s political existence, and determining the borders of Armenia and Turkey pursuant to the arbitral award of U.S. President Woodrow Wilson.
On the other hand, the Lausanne Treaty had a narrow purpose. It was titled “The Lausanne Conference on Near East Affairs, 1922-1923.” Its main purpose was to address the Greek-Turkish conflict of 1919-1922. Its signatories were only those parties that had an interest in that conflict. It neither involved Armenia nor addressed any disputes between Turkey and Armenia.
Within the framework of international law, Mr. Davutoglu’s claim that the signing of the protocols will confirm the borders between Armenia and Turkey as provided under the Lausanne Treaty is simply untenable. Armenia was neither a party to nor a subject matter of the Lausanne Treaty.
If anything, Lausanne Treaty reconfirmed by reference the territorial boundaries of Armenia as provided under the Sevres Treaty in accordance with the Wilsonian Arbitral Award. This reconfirmation is made through Article 16, whereby Turkey renounces all rights and title over the territories that are not addressed by the Lausanne Treaty. It specifically provides that “The provisions of the present Article do not prejudice any special arrangements arising from neighborly relations, which have been or may be concluded between Turkey and any limitrophe countries.”
The “special arrangements … which have been … concluded between Turkey and any limitrophe” country is a reference to the Wilsonian Arbitration (a “special arrangement”) that Turkey had accepted with respect to Armenia (a “limitrophe” country.) Thus, under the Lausanne Treaty the titles and rights of the Republic of Armenia as awarded under the Wilsonian Arbitration are preserved. Turkey has acquiesced to it by renouncing all rights and title over the Armenian territories.
Mr. Davutoglu hopes to undo Article 16 of the Lausanne Treaty. He seeks to nullify that Article’s reconfirmation referencing to Armenia’s lawfully awarded boundaries. He wants to renounce Turkey’s 86-year old legal renunciation of its rights over the occupied Armenian homeland.
Seto Boyadjian is an attorney and member of the national board of the Armenian National Committee of America.