He explained that Armenia approached Turkey by asking if they were ready to negotiate without asserting that Armenia set aside the Genocide recognition issue and the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict resolution process—without preconditions. Nalbandian asserted that Armenia was clear that if such preconditions were to be set, it would not take part in any talks. Thus, he explained, began the process, which included the invitation to Armenia of the Turkish president.
When asked who authored the protocols, Nalbandian explained that there are always misconceptions that the protocols were written in Washington, London or another capital and are being forced on to Armenia. There’s always doubt on Armenia’s ability to initiate a process.
In his remarks, Nalbandian echoed his commander in Chief, Serzh Sarkisian’s justifications for pushing forward with the protocols, describing the document as the realization of Armenia’s “long awaited wish.”
“Armenia has been ready for normalization of relations with Turkey without preconditions ever since its declaration of independence and what we’re doing now is turning Armenia’s long-awaited wish into a reality,” he said. “Turkish-Armenian relations are not merely bilateral political relations and they include issues that have the impact of historical, moral-psychological and other factors.”
The parliamentary hearing, which was attended by non-members of parliament, academicians and experts was the beginning of a what the protocols called “public discussion.”
However, Nalbandian sought to target his remarks to the protocols’ detractors, namely the Armenian Revolutionary Federation and the Heritage party.
“Are there preconditions? Are we doubting the fact of genocide? Are we impeding the international recognition of Armenian Genocide? Is there a relation between the pre-signed documents and the talks on the Nagorno-Karabakh?” Nalbandian asked rhetorically. “No, no and once again, no.”
The international community, he added, “views the issue of Armenian Genocide not from the angle of Turkish-Armenian relations, but as a universal value and includes all kinds of issues such as human rights and prevention of genocide as the heaviest crime against humanity.”
“The claims that the issue of genocide will be limited to an issue between two states and will lose its universal significance if Turkey and Armenia engage in dialogue are false,” he claimed. “We are also sure that the pre-signed document doesn’t serve as a basis to cast doubt that the Armenian people are being deprived of the right to fight for historical justice.”
Armenia’s chief diplomat also attempted to defend his administration’s inability to decouple the resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict from negotiations with Turkey. Ankara has exploited its talks with Armenia to force a resolution to the Karabakh conflict favoring its ally Azerbaijan. But according to Nalbandian the “allegations that [the Karabakh conflict] is connected to [protocols]” are false. “The preconditions, let alone the resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, are not even mentioned in the documents.”
He said both he and Sarkisian have repeatedly made statements stressing that no link between the Turkey-Armenia process and the Nagorno-Karabakh peace talks exists, adding that he believes the international community also believes in that principle.
“The OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairing countries have also spoken about that several times,” he said. “After my meeting with the US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the latter reaffirmed the US position on the above mentioned and the Co-Chairs issued a statement on that today.”
“Wittingly or unwittingly, we have accepted the Turkish preconditions and allowed an extremely serious deviation from our foreign policy course,” said Armen Rustamian, the chairman of the parliamentary commission on foreign relations and a member of the ARF parliamentary faction.
The creation of a “sub-commission of historian to look into the Armenian Genocide was also criticized. ARF parliamentary bloc chairman and Bureau member Vahan Hovannesian said that “the creation of that sub-commission presupposes the erasing of all evidence that the genocide took place. It signals that the evidence of the Genocide is not strong.”
Nalbandian responded by saying the panel would not set out to determine the fact of the Genocide but will serve as a forum for discourse on numerous historical issues.
“This sub-commission has no other mandate,” he said. “Nor does it have any time limits because we realize that this process can be lenghthy. It may take 10 years, maybe 20 years, maybe 50 years, or maybe longer.”
“The idea is that by talking, opening up to each other, our societies could reach some common denominators,” added the minister.
Nalbandian ended his speech by making a reference to Sarkisian’s opening remarks during a recent meeting with Armenia’s political parties. “Turkey and Armenia have many issues to solve…Let us understand who is going to do what and what we all are going to do together. I think that this is the most important.”