The other day, a friendly Congressman’s staffer, upon his review of the twin Protocols aimed at normalizing bilateral relations between Armenia and Turkey, conveyed the following observation to the Armenian National Committee of America’s Washington office:
“What Armenia is giving up is tangible and in the present as opposed to what Turkey is giving up that may or not come in the future.”
This observation is a fittingly accurate description of the essence and purpose of the proposed dual Protocols, which will be examined over the next six weeks in Armenia and Turkey and then ratified by the legislative bodies of each country. It should be hoped that the Armenian people and their homeland government will be able to comprehend the full portents of the Congressional staffer’s observation – as it clearly hints that the so-called Protocols are grounded on perilous paths and unrealistic roadways that can only push the Armenian side into harm’s way.
It is not that difficult to pin down the dangers posed by these Protocols. Let us start from the very beginning.
In the context of the current bilateral normalization process, Armenia’s sole and immediate objective is the opening of borders by Turkey. The achievement of this objective was imposed upon Armenia especially in the aftermath of last year’s war between Russia and Georgia, when Georgia’s internal instability created sequential obstacles for the normal transportation of over 70% of Armenia’s imports and exports.
For Turkey, the opening of borders with Armenia rests on three objectives. First, to finalize and legalize Armenia’s currently held frontiers with Turkey that have been left legally undetermined since 1920. Second, to halt the international affirmation of the Armenian Genocide and its ensuing territorial and financial restitution. Third, to dismantle the independent Republic of Nagorno Karabakh and subject its territory to Azerbaijan’s jusrisdiction.
Armenia’s lone objective, which requires immediate implementation, is based purely on economic considerations. The border is already half open, because Armenia has not closed down its side of the territory. Turkey, which keeps its side of the territory closed since 1993, is obligated under international law, as well as on the principle of good neighborly relations, to open its borders immediately.
The triple Turkish objectives, which cannot be subject to immediate implementation, are based purely on territorial considerations. And resolution of territorial disputes, as experience suggests in diplomatic affairs, require lengthy processes of difficult negotiations.
The proposed Protocols, in substance as well as in form, convolute the timing of each party’s objectives by turning them upside down. Their pertinent provisions entitle the first and second Turkish objectives – legalization of the current frontier regime, and cessation of Armenian Genocide recognition and claims – with the status of immediate implementation. (As for the third Turkish objective pertaining Nagorno Karabakh, the Turkish foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu, within hours of the execution of the Protocols, turned it into a corollary of these documents, when he announced that in the context of the normalization process with Armenia Turkey will defend Azerbaijan’s interests regarding Nagorno Karabakh.)
On the other hand, the very same provisions of the Protocols render a status of dependency to Armenia’s economic objective for the border opening, which in fact has to be entitled to immediate implementation. Furthermore, this status of dependency turned into a remotely implementable and even an unenforceable proposition by Mr. Davutoglu, when he indicated in his above statement that opening the border was out of the question for now, because “a longer process is required for that.”
If the proposed Protocols are ratified in their existing contents, Armenia will obtain nothing in return in order to suffice its sole demand for the opening of the borders by Turkey – except perhaps an ephemeral promise or an unsubstantiated hope that someday somehow the borders may open.
As for Turkey, it will be able to achieve all of its demands, thereby fulfilling its dream of legalizing the usurpation of a large portion of Armenian homeland since 1920.
For Turkey, the twin Protocols are firmly anchored on beneficial and realistic grounds. For Armenia, those grounds lead only onto perilous paths, over unrealistic roadways, and into harm’s way.
Seto Boyadjian is an attorney and member of the national board of the Armenian National Committee of America.