The Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun) strongly condemned on Tuesday the new twist in Armenia’s ongoing dialogue with Turkey, pledging to save no effort to stave off what it called “numerous dangers” emanating from it.
The influential nationalist party dismissed government assurances that draft protocols unveiled by Ankara and Yerevan late Monday envisage an unconditional normalization of Turkish-Armenian relations. It accused President Serzh Sarkisian of thwarting greater international recognition of the Armenian genocide and being ready to make more concessions to Azerbaijan as part of the Western-backed deal. The allegations were echoed by a leading member of the main opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK).
“It is already evident that the published documents contain the well-known preconditions of the Turkish side,” Dashnaktsutyun said in a statement. “That is, to call into question the fact of the Armenian Genocide and to nullify timeless rights of the Armenian people.” Citing Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu’s televised remarks, it said Turkey continues to make the establishment of diplomatic relations and reopening of its border with Armenia conditional on a resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict acceptable to Azerbaijan.
The statement came after an emergency joint meeting in Yerevan of Dashnaktsutyun’s worldwide Bureau and its separate governing body in Armenia. The de facto head of the Bureau, Hrant Markarian, denounced the Turkish-Armenian protocols as “unacceptable” and “offensive.”
“I regret that our president is going to sign a document he has no right to sign,” Markarian told RFE/RL in an interview. “In the next two months we will do everything to inform the public about the essence of the agreement and issues hidden in it,” he said.
Despite the harsh criticism, the Dashnaktsutyun leadership again stopped short of demanding President Serzh Sarkisian’s resignation. The party, which has traditionally favored a hard line on Turkey, pulled out of Sarkisian’s coalition cabinet in April in protest against his overtures to Ankara.
Dashnaktsutyun has been particularly critical of Sarkisian’s effective acceptance of a Turkish proposal to form a joint commission tasked with looking into the 1915 mass killings of Armenians in Ottoman Turkey. One of the two draft protocols finalized by the two governments calls for such a study. It also envisages “the mutual recognition of the existing border between the two countries,” something which Dashnaktsutyun and other Armenian nationalist groups strongly oppose.
Markarian claimed that these concessions alone would not lead Ankara to reopen the Turkish-Armenian border. “I think it is a bit naïve to expect that state [Turkey] to subordinate Azerbaijan’s interests to its relations with Armenia,” he said. “Maybe there is another, hidden agreement whereby during the next two, three or six months the Karabakh conflict will be ‘solved.’ So [that means] all of Turkey’s three preconditions have been accepted.”
Razmik Zohrabian, a deputy chairman of Sarkisian’s Republican Party of Armenia (HHK), brushed aside these claims, arguing that the protocols make no reference to the Karabakh conflict. “There are no preconditions,” Zohrabian told RFE/RL.
The latest Turkish-Armenian agreement was also described as “absolutely unacceptable” by Aleksandr Arzumanian, a former foreign minister and a leader of the HAK. “This acceleration of a solution in Turkish-Armenian relations will run parallel to an acceleration of Nagorno-Karabakh talks,” he said, adding that Sarkisian has committed himself to accepting a Karabakh settlement unfavorable for the Armenian side.
Both Arzumanian and Markarian predicted that the Turkish parliament will not rush to ratify the agreement with Armenia despite tight normalization deadlines agreed by the two governments. “The ratification requirement is incomprehensible,” said the ex-minister. “It allows [the Turks] to drag out the entry into force of those protocols.”
David Hovannisian, a scholar and retired diplomat who was a member of the now defunct Turkish-Armenian Reconciliation Commission, shared these concerns. “It will be very beneficial for the Turks to carry out a quite slow ratification process, every phase of which will present them with opportunities for more deals and haggling,” he said.
Hovannisian was also skeptical about the planned Turkish-Armenian panel of historians, saying that its existence could create “very serious problems” for the Armenian side. He suggested that its Armenian members will not be given full access to important Ottoman government documents related to the 1915 massacres.
“I believe that there is no need for setting up inter-governmental commissions to discuss historical issues because historians and scholars can express their opinions in conferences and articles,” said Ruben Melkonian, a professor of Turkish studies at Yerevan State University (YSU). “The whole thing seems to be more political [than scientific.]”
The two scholars spoke to RFE/RL after attending Foreign Minister Eduard Nalbandian’s meeting with the YSU faculty and students held behind closed doors. Participants said the meeting was dominated by the latest developments in the Turkish-Armenian negotiations.