ANKARA (RFE/RL)–Turkey’s parliament will not ratify the normalization agreements with Armenia unless international efforts to resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict yield a breakthrough that favors Azerbaijan, according to Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu.
“In order to get a yes [vote,] we need to have some progress in the [Karabakh] peace talks because Azerbaijan is a strategic ally and almost a domestic issue for Turkish foreign policy,” Davutoglu said in an interview with Al Jazeera television aired on Monday. The international community should help to end “the illegal occupation of 20 percent of Azerbaijani territories” if it wants a speedy normalization of Turkish-Armenian relations, he said.
“We have been saying that these protocols will have a positive impact on stability in the South Caucasus and particularly on the Armenian-Azerbaijani dispute to end the occupation of Azeri territories by Armenians,” Davutoglu said. “This is our belief. Such progress will definitely have a very positive impact on the ratification process in our parliament.
“If there is a deterioration of the situation [in the Karabakh dispute] or … if there is no hope for such [progress] then the members of our parliament will have a negative tendency to vote. Therefore, we now have to work on a positive scenario.”
When asked whether that means the government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan will not have its ministers bring the protocols to a vote before it sees decisive progress in the Armenian-Azerbaijani negotiations, Davutoglu replied, “Yes, of course.”
The minister seemed to play down the fact that Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) has a clear majority in Turkey’s Grand National Assembly. “According to our constitution, the government’s responsibility is just sending these agreements to the parliament,” he said, speaking in English. “We can not impose anything on the parliament.”
He also said that the a clause in the protocols that calls for the establishment of a commission to examine whether the Armenian Genocide occurred would help his government depoliticize the highly sensitive issue. Davutoglu went on to indicate that Ankara is confident that it can get the Turkish-Armenian historical “subcommission” to accept the official Turkish version of the 1915 killings.
“Historical facts should be researched based on historical documents,” Davutoglu said. “There is a historical fact and there is a war of propaganda. Until now what we observed was a war of propaganda for political purposes. “This new condition will take it to the right place: a research based on historical data. Historical data means archives.” “I am self-confident. I know the archives,” he added.
Davutoglu’s remarks were in tune with Erdogan’s repeated preconditions that Turkey will not open its border with Armenia before a Karabakh settlement acceptable to Azerbaijan. Official Baku, which strongly criticized the signing of the Turkish-Armenian protocols earlier this month, was quick to welcome them.
“Azerbaijan relies on the Turkish side’s assurances that it will not open the border with Armenia without a resolution of the Karabakh problem and we have no reason to doubt the Turkish leadership’s statements on the issue,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Elkhan Polukhov told the 1news.az news agency. “We find very positive the fact that the Turkish leaders adhere to their previous positions on the issue.”
The Armenian government did not react to Davutoglu’s interview as of Tuesday evening. President Serzh Sarkisian implicitly threatened earlier to walk away from the agreements if the Turks fail to implement them “within a reasonable timeframe.” Some of his political allies have spoken of “early spring” as Yerevan’s unofficial deadline for the completion of the ratification process.
Armenian leaders continue to claim that negotiations with Turkey continue without preconditions and that neither Turkish-Armenian protocol makes any reference to the Karabakh conflict. Their political opponents claim, however, that the Sarkisian administration promised to make more concessions to Azerbaijan during its fence-mending negotiations with Ankara.
Earlier last week, Nairi Petrosyan, a spokesperson for the Armenian parliament said lawmakers will probably wait for Turkey to act on the treaty before bringing it to a vote themselves.