BY HENRY D. ASTARJIAN
Throwing shoes at presidents is not a civilized way of expressing anger, desperation, or helplessness, but there are times when such actions translated into words are justifiable. Now is such a time! The entire Armenian nation should do just that to express its anger, disdain, and frustration, and in a polite way its fierce opposition to Serzh Sarkisian’s commitment to implementing, then selling, the “Armeno-Turkish protocols” to us.
This infamous document, which was recently initialed in Switzerland, could justly be called the “Protocol of Surrender,” as it is a document that allows Turkey to export goods and services to Armenia, and Armenia to export culturally talented, and not so talented, ladies to enliven the nightlife of Istanbul and Kars. Of course, there is nothing wrong with that; after all, the moneys earned will help the Armenian economy.
Why would Serzh Sarkisian put his stinking signature on a protocol that his corrupt foreign minister, Eduard Nalbandian, had negotiated secretly?
Who authorized them to negotiate away Armenian rights to Armenian territories? Did they have a mandate from the Armenian electorate, indeed the Armenians in general?
Who gave them the right to make unprecedented concessions to Turkish demands of looking into the validity of the genocide?
Who gave them the authority to accept the Turkish demand that Armenia must “…defend the integrity of its neighboring nation’s territorial claims”—a condition that will jeopardize the self-determination rights of the people of Nagorno-Karabagh?
Given Nalbandian’s history as Armenia’s ambassador to Egypt, one cannot help but question the honesty with which he has conducted his official duties, including the formulation of the Armeno-Turkish protocols.
All the bonds of his and Serzh’s protocols are rotten, but the one most laughable is the item that deals with “territorial claims.” That clause addresses the “Agreement that Armenia will defend the integrity of its neighboring nations’ territorial claims,” thereby torpedoing the self-determination rights of the people of Karabagh, and our rights to the six vilayets that constitute Western Armenia, in accordance with the Sevres Treaty of 1920.
Not only that! This agreement permanently seals the ill-fated Kars Treaty which was struck between Soviet Armenia and Ataturk’s General Kiazim Kara Bekir in October 1921. This treaty mandated Turkey to concede Batumi to Georgia, a Soviet Republic, and in turn the Soviets conceded Kars and Ardahan, a part of Armenia, to Turkey. Armenia had no free will in this; they ratified the treaty, under duress, in September 1922. Karabagh had the same fate; Stalin annexed it to Azerbaijan.
Now Serzh and Eduard are affixing their signature to a protocol that mandates Armenia’s commitment to defend the integrity of Turkey, Azerbaijan, and Georgia. Oh, what a joke.
Cow-towing to Turkey, like his predecessor Levon Ter-Petrosian, who went to Ankara at the head of his ministerial delegation to attend the funeral of Turgut Ozal on April 24, 1993, Serzh Sarkisian is embarking on a roadmap that will only lead the nation to the abyss. Like his predecessor, Serzh is defying our sensibilities and logic, and desecrating the memories of 1.5 million Armenian martyrs who perished by the hands of Turkey’s Ittihad ve Terakki, who were supposed to be our allies and personal friends in the fight against the Ottoman Sultan’s regime. Serzh has not learned from history.
Maybe Serzh, and those in power in Armenia, do not understand nationhood the way we diasporans do. Maybe they don’t understand that Armenia is home to all ethnic Armenians, and that Armenia is not some state like, say India, where the color of the country as a whole is not ethnic, or racial, or religious. Like Israel, which the Jews claim to be the Jewish state, Armenia is the Armenian state. It is not a state compromised of multiple nationalities; it is an Armenian and a Christian state. Armenia belongs to any and every Armenian, whether he or she lives in Armenia, the diaspora, or Katmandu. Thus, our inherent right to have a say in matters that affect the interests of Armenia our nationhood is at stake.
Serzh and his cronies fail to understand that Armenia, with its Ararat and Etchmiadzin, are the Diaspora’s lifeline. It will be foolish of him to sever that relationship in lieu of Turkish “friendship.” Yes, Armenia must have good relationship with her neighbors, including Turkey, but not at the expense of sacrificing its vital interests.
We understand the pressure that he is under. We understand the power struggle between the United States and Russia over Armenia, each aspiring to have a controlling position. But the Armenian nation, or Armenia, must not be the sacrificial lamb, which they are positioned to be.
Then the question arises again: Does this protocol agreement benefit Armenia? If it is implemented, for one, the illusive Turkish hegemony will become a reality on the ground. And that is the American strategy. The big powers’ strategy in that part of the world might be to control oil and gas resources, but for the United States, controlling Iran and its nuclear program is much more important. Iran, which is about ready to become a nuclear power, is America’s nightmare, and one of the rational strategies is to cut off its supply line from Russia. That line does not pass through Georgia or Azerbaijan, it passes through a five-mile Armeno-Iranian border—the weakest link in the Caucasian containment chain of Russia.
Iran is also the lifeline of Armenia. The Armenia-Iran alliance is age-old. There is also a century-old Iranian Shiite mosque in Yerevan. In the early 1990’s, when Turkey’s and Azerbaijan’s blockade of Armenia was so severe that the country could not breathe, it was Iran that came to the rescue.
Turkey’s hegemony over Armenia would exert pressure over Iran, this time from the north, thus reviving the centuries-old Iran-Turkey struggle for control of the region. It is a complex political and strategic situation. It needs political savvy and expertise to maneuver through all these landmines, but not at the expense of giving the shop away.
Serzh Sarkisian, this week the ARF met with you on this blunder, and came out empty handed. If you insist on signing the protocols, then you are a tavajan, I have two words for you: Get lost!
Dr. Henry Astarjian is the author of The Struggle for Kirkuk. He has written several articles on the Armenian and Kurdish issues. On three occasions, he has spoken to the Kurdish Parliament in Exile (in Brussels), asserting Armenian rights according to the Sevres Treaty.