ANKARA (Hurriyet)–Turkish Foreign Ministry Undersecretary Feridun Sinirlioglu will leave for Washington on February 13 to lobby the US Government and gain support for Ankara’s position on the ongoing negotiations to normalize relations with Armenia, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said Wednesday.
Sinirlioglu will “express Turkey’s views on leading the Armenia-Turkey process out of deadlock,” Davutoglu told reporters at Ankara’s Esenboga Airport before departing for Kazakhstan. The Turkish Foreign Ministry is also going to send diplomats to Russia and France to lobby the governments there, Davutoglu said.
In his remarks, the Turkish diplomat sought to reassure an international community irritated with his government’s growing intransigence that Turkey had not lost the political will to normalize its strained relations with Armenia. “We have a strong political will to secure permanent peace and stability in the Caucasus. Otherwise, we would not have taken these steps,” Davutoglu said. “We are hopeful that positive developments will happen in that direction.”
“Hopefully, such a perspective is not far away from being realized thanks to very strong steps that will be taken in the near future,” he said.
Davutoglu, himself, will hold official talks in Kazakhstan from Feb. 10 to 12. He said he would pay follow-up official visits to other Central Asian republics having significant roles in Turkish foreign policy. Kazakhstan holds the rotating chairmanship of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, which mediates the Nagorno-Karabakh peace process through its Minsk Group.
The scheduled visit to Washington by Sinirlioglu comes amid heightened uncertainty in the Turkish-Armenian rapprochement process. Turkey has accused Yerevan of threatening to derail normalization efforts, complaining that a ruling by the Armenian Constitutional Court on the protocols aims to set preconditions on the ratification of the agreements. The Armenian court on January 12 upheld the legality of the protocols, but stipulated that the protocols could have no bearing on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict or contradict Yerevan’s efforts to garner international recognition and condemnation for the Armenian Genocide as outlined by Armenia’s Declaration of Independence.
Sinirlioglu visited Switzerland on February 5 to relay Turkey’s disappointment over the ruling and sought assurances from Bern that it would use its mediating role in the rapprochement process to pressure Yerevan into ratifying the protocols without the court’s reservations. He will seek the same guarantees from US officials during his visit.
The general mood in both Washington and Bern, however, is that Turkey’s reaction to the court ruling as “exaggerated” and it will be responsible for the possible failure of normalization efforts. Both Washington and Bern have said the court’s decision presents no legal obstacle to the implementation of the protocols.
Davutoglu also said Sinirlioglu will convey to Washington that a scheduled vote by a key US congressional committee on a resolution recognizing the Armenian Genocide has “caused Ankara concern.” Davutoglu has, in recent days, denounced the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee for scheduling the vote , saying that its passage would seriously harm Turkey’s relations with both the United States and Armenia.
Davutoglu has accused Washington of using the prospect of the resolution’s passage to force Turkey to ratify its fence-mending agreements with Armenia. He has also accused Yerevan of infusing preconditions into the Turkish-Armenian normalization process and hampering further progress in international efforts to resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party, which controls a majority in parliament, has for months held off on submitting the protocols to its parliament for a vote. Instead, it has maintained that Armenia must agree to a resolution of the Karabakh conflict favoring Azerbaijan before the Turkish Grand National Assembly ratifies the agreements.