By Anna Saghabalian
A leader of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun) reiterated on Wednesday his party’s misgivings and unease about President Serzh Sarkisian’s diplomatic overtures to Turkey.
Armen Rustamian warned that Turkish President Abdullah Gul will face street protests by Dashnaktsutyun if he accepts Sarkisian’s invitation to visit Yerevan and watch the first-ever match between the two countries’ national soccer teams to be played on September 6.
“We must not allow Turkey to create an illusion about the existence of relations [with Armenia,]” he told journalists. “This is all it wants.”
Rustamian said Dashnaktsutyun, which is a junior partner in Armenia’s governing coalition, would “remind” Gul of the 1915 Armenian genocide and other problems existing between the two nations. “We have the right to express our protest within the civilized norms,” he said. “We are currently thinking about what forms it could take.”
The Armenian and Turkish governments raised new hopes for the normalization of the historically strained relations between their nations shortly after Sarkisian took over as Armenia’s new president in April. Official Yerevan responded positively to Ankara’s offer of a “dialogue.” As well as inviting Gul to pay a first-ever visit to Armenia by a Turkish head of state, Sarkisian signaled last month his government’s readiness to agree, in principle, to the creation of a Turkish-Armenian commission of historians that would study the mass killings of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire.
Sarkisian’s predecessor, Robert Kocharian, rejected the idea floated by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan in 2005, saying that the highly sensitive issue must be addressed by the two governments, rather than historians. In an interview late last month, Kocharian faulted Sarkisian for extending the extraordinary invitation to Gul welcomed by the United States.
Rustamian agreed with Kocharian’s stance, while playing down the significance of the invitation. “If I were the president I wouldn’t invite him,” he said.
Rustamian, who also chairs the Armenian parliament’s foreign relations committee, insisted at the same time that there are no “strategic differences” within Armenia’s leadership on how to improve relations with Turkey.
Successive Armenian governments have stood for an unconditional normalization of Turkish-Armenian relations, saying that the two countries should establish diplomatic relations and open their border before tackling their outstanding problems. Dashnaktsutyun has traditionally favored a harder line that makes Turkish recognition of the genocide a necessary condition for a Turkish-Armenian rapprochement.
(Photolur photo: Armen Rustamian.)