The very first step in attempting to “normalize” relations between Armenia and Turkey — signing the Protocols in Zurich on October 10 — was nearly aborted when the Foreign Ministers of both countries objected to the statements that each had prepared for delivery following the signing ceremony.
Since both parties had the right to review in advance each other’s closing statements, the Armenian Foreign Minister complained that the Turkish side planned to raise unacceptable issues on Karabakh (Artsakh) and the historical commission. For his part, the Turkish Foreign Minister objected to his Armenian counterpart’s attempt to assert that the establishment of relations between the two countries was not based on “any preconditions.”
After more than 3-hours of intense back and forth, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, and other high-ranking officials, succeeded in pressuring the Armenian and Turkish Foreign Ministers into signing the Protocols, without making closing statements.
Despite the massive outpouring of Armenian sentiment, accusing Armenia’s leadership of making unacceptable concessions, Foreign Minister Eduard Nalbandian went ahead and signed the Protocols in Zurich.
The signed Protocols are now to be submitted to the Armenian and Turkish Parliaments for ratification. Before this final step, however, the Armenian side should consider taking the following nine actions in order to minimize the damage the Protocols would cause to Armenian interests:
1. A non-governmental organization or an opposition political party should file a lawsuit with Armenia’s Constitutional Court, challenging the constitutionality of the Protocols. This initiative would be separate from the legal requirement that the Constitutional Court pronounce judgment on whether a particular international agreement is in line with Armenia’s Constitution.
2. Before taking up these Protocols, the Armenian Parliament should wait and see if its Turkish counterpart will ratify them first.
3. If the Turkish Parliament fails to ratify the Protocols “in a reasonable timeframe,” the Armenian government should declare them to be null and void.
4. The Armenian Parliament should not ratify the Protocols, if the Turkish Parliament attaches any reservations or provisions at the time of ratification.
5. The Armenian government should withdraw the Protocols from parliamentary consideration, if the Turkish Parliament links its ratification to unrelated issues, such as the Artsakh negotiations or the Armenian Genocide.
6. The Armenian Parliament should add a provision to the Protocols, stating that they would be considered null and void, if after ratification Turkey does not open the border with Armenia within the stipulated 60-day timeframe or if it closes the border after opening it. In fact, Pres. Sarkisan committed himself to adding such a provision, in response to a suggestion I made during his meeting with Armenian-American leaders in Los Angeles on October 4.
7. The Armenian Parliament, before ratifying the Protocols, should pass a law making it illegal for any governmental entity or agency to participate in any effort that questions the truth of the Armenian Genocide. This law would counter declarations made by Turkish leaders and others that the historical sub-commission mentioned in the Protocols would re-examine the facts of the Armenian Genocide.
8. The Armenian Parliament should make it illegal for any Armenian official to negotiate, sign or approve any territorial concessions regarding Artsakh. This would shut the door firmly on repeated Turkish demands for Armenian concessions on Artsakh, prior to the ratification of the Protocols.
9. The Armenian Parliament should declare the Treaty of Kars, signed under duress by the Armenian Soviet Socialist Republic, to be null and void. Once the Treaty of Kars is annulled, the reference in the Protocols to relevant international treaties defining the existing Armenian-Turkish border would no longer be valid and therefore, would not preclude future Armenian territorial demands from Turkey.
It is imperative that the Armenian authorities implement the foregoing steps, because merely providing verbal explanations in defense of the Protocols would not eliminate their detrimental effects.
Since Armenia’s leaders are unwilling or unable to renegotiate and amend these Protocols, due to the international pressure brought to bear on them — as seen during the Zurich spectacle — the least they should do is to take actions that would limit the damage to Armenia’s national interests.