ANKARA—It comes as no surprise that the focus of Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu’s presentation to the Turkish Parliament on the protocols was the provision on the recognition of territorial integrity and current borders. This particular aspect was—and remains—one of the critical points of contention and opposition since the announcement of the protocols on August 31.
“The Kars and Moscow agreements define the borders between Turkey and Armenia,” said Davutoglu emphasizing that the provision outlined in the protocols were, in fact, in reference to the aforementioned treatises.
“Both the Kars agreement and the Moscow agreement say that the Sevres Treaty is not recognized,” added Davutoglu, stressing that by signing the protocols Armenia has effectively agreed to this provision. Furthermore, Davutoglu was very clear when he said that Armenia, as the direct inheritor of the former Soviet Armenia, was bound, by international law, to respect the current borders.
Davutoglu further drove the point home to his National Assembly by saying: “No one in Armenia can lay claim to territories of Turkey. Armenia confirmed it in the protocols that it was impossible legally. There are only two international agreements on the recognition of existing borders – Moscow and Kars treaties. The Kars treaty was signed between the USSR, Soviet Armenia, Soviet Azerbaijan and Soviet Georgia. Present Armenia is the legal heir of Soviet Armenia. Former Soviet republics declared in Almaty in 1991 that they recognize all international documents signed by USSR.”
In line with the territorial integrity discussion, Davutoglu then presented the issue of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, which he said is a process that should continue parallel to the Turkey-Armenia normalization.
The Turkish government has not changed it political mission to end the Armenian occupation in Nagorno-Karabakh, Davutoglu said. “Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity is as important for Turkey as its own territorial integrity. Turkey will continue to advocate [Azerbaijan’s rights] at every diplomatic stage like it has done so over the last 17 years.”
The minister said President Abdullah Gul brought the matter up during his phone conversations with his Russian and U.S counterparts in the last two days. “We will do our best to solve this dispute. We’re well aware that any bilateral normalization is not realistic without a comprehensive regional solution. We will open a road to solve Karabakh in line with international law,” he said, adding that the peace negotiations between Baku and Yerevan have to step up as a result of the reconciliation talks with Ankara.”
The status quo in the Caucasus is not consistent with Turkey’s vision, Davutoglu said. “The frozen conflicts are like unexploded bombs in our hands. We need to eradicate them one by one through peaceful means.”
“The existing picture does not serve anybody’s interest in the region,” he said in reference to the fact that Azerbaijan has been under occupation for 17 years while Armenia’s economy has been worsening.
“We have to change the status quo in order to prevent further risks,” Davutoglu said as critical voices from the opposition seats attempted to drown him out.
Davutoglu added that the formation of a historic commission to “study the events of 1915” was in line with Turkish policies and would go a long way to further the rapprochement process.
Opposition in Parliament
As expected, Turkey’s opposition movements were vocal in expressing their discontent with the protocols.
However, one remark that stood out of the rest came from Selahattin Demirtas of the pro-Kurdish Democratic Society Party, or DTP, and sparked tension among the parliamentarians. “Denial has been the way to deal with a tragedy in history. The massacre against Armenians was not put into history books,” Demirtas said, increasing the tension in the hall.
Stressing that governments have failed to prevent a historically based anti-Armenian attitude that has dominated the country for over a century, he said: “It is not easy to explain a reconciliation protocol with Armenia under such conditions. We should begin by correcting.”
Sukru Elekdag, the former ambassador to the US and a leader of the Republican People’s Party, or CHP, criticized the ambiguous language in the protocols, arguing that Turkey’s interests were at risk. Elekdag also pointed out Turkey’s strategic alliance with Azerbaijan. “It would be an incomprehensible mistake to lose Azerbaijan. It may worsen Turkey’s relations with all Turkic republics across the world.”
“There is no condition about Armenia changing its constitutional law to recognize Turkey’s territorial integrity. How can the government explain this failure? Turkey has regretfully failed to use its advantages,” he said.
He went on to add that the absence of a clear provision in the protocols about the Kars Treaty weakened Turkey’s position in the process.
“Don’t forget that as soon as Armenia gained its independence, it passed a decision not to recognize the Kars treaty,” stressed Elektag. “The exclusion of a provision about the Kars treaty in the protocol means that Turkey loses its right as guarantor of Nakhchivan. According to the 3rd article of Moscow treaty, Turkey and Russia are guarantors of Nakhchivan’s status.”