YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–The dramatic collapse of the Turkish-Armenian normalization agreements has vindicated opponents of Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian’s policy of rapprochement with Turkey, according to a think-tank led by former Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian.
In an annual report released this week, the Yerevan-based Civilitas Foundation criticized Sarkisian for not formally scrapping the agreements and said Turkey is unlikely to unconditionally normalize relations with Armenia anytime soon.
“Those who had raised the alarm that the process was unfeasible and the documents inadequate were vindicated,” said Civilitas. “Fears that a sloppy process would lead to failure were proven true. But worse, predictions that bilateral relations would be even more adversely affected also came to pass.”
“Those who insisted that trying was better than not trying, or that trying couldn’t hurt, are now faced with a pendulum that has shifted from groundless elation in 2008 to unnecessary hostility in 2010,” it said.
Civilitas referred to Yerevan’s and Ankara’s failure to implement the two “protocols” that were signed in Zurich in October 2009 in the presence of U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and top diplomats from Russia and the European Union. They envisaged the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two neighbors and the opening of their border, which Turkey closed in 1993 out of solidarity with Azerbaijan.
The Ankara government made clear shortly after the protocol signing that it will not push for their ratification by Turkey’s parliament until there is decisive progress towards a resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict acceptable to Azerbaijan.
Sarkisian responded by freezing the ratification process in Armenia last April. But he stopped short of annulling the protocols altogether, a move that earned him strong praise from the United States and the EU. Clinton called it “very statesmanlike” when she visited Yerevan in July.
“By suspending the protocols rather than completely dismissing them, the Armenian side has created a situation where there is no longer even slight pressure on Turkey to open the border,” said Civilitas. “Instead, Turkey has now taken on the right to become an active negotiator in the Karabakh process, aggressively pushing for a resolution, in various forums, while clearly remaining a protector of Azerbaijani interests.”
Sarkisian and his allies insist that the process has greatly improved Armenia’s international standing as both the West and Russia favor an unconditional Turkish-Armenian normalization. Clinton’s said in Yerevan that the onus is on the Turkish side to revive the normalization process with “the steps that it promised to take.”
Oskanian, who served as Armenia’s foreign minister from 1998-2008, has been among vocal critics of Sarkisian’s Western-backed policy on Turkey. They are especially unhappy with a protocol clause envisaging the creation of a Turkish-Armenian “subcommission” tasked with looking into the World War One-era Armenian massacres in the Ottoman Empire.
The critics, led by the Armenian Revolutionary Federation, believe that the Turks would use the existence of such a body to deter more countries from recognizing the mass killings as genocide. Some of them also strongly object to another protocol provision that commits Armenia to explicitly recognizing its existing border with Turkey.
The extensive Civilitas report examining major developments in and around Armenia in 2010 says that the Turkish-Armenian rapprochement was based on “two fundamental miscalculations.” The Armenian side hoped that Ankara will stop linking bilateral ties with a Karabakh settlement, while the Turks thought that a breakthrough in the Karabakh peace process is imminent, it says.
“The calculations were off. The protocols were suspended and the two sides are engaged in accusation and counteraccusation,” adds the report.
Oskanian’s think-tank predicted that the normalization process will likely remain deadlocked even if Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party wins general elections due in June 2011. “Turkey will continue to insist on linkage between the normalization of relations and progress in the Karabakh negotiations, at the same time as it tries to sustain the impression that the Armenia-Turkey process is still alive, in order to impede the already diminished drive for international genocide recognition,” it said.