Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu opened on Friday consultations with his country’s top political leaders on the draft agreements envisaging the normalization of Turkish-Armenian relations.
Ankara and Yerevan publicized the two agreements on August 31 and pledged to sign them after six of “internal political consultations.” The two protocols have to be ratified by the parliaments of the two nations before they can come into effect.
“We aim to brief all political parties, institutions and civic bodies on the protocols that will be signed,” AFP news agency quoted Davutoglu as telling reporters after meeting Turkish parliament speaker Mehmet Ali Sahin.
Davutoglu added that he also asked for meetings with the leaders of Turkey’s two largest opposition parties represented in parliament. “We want to hold the briefings before parliament returns from summer recess in October,” he said.
Both opposition parties have said that they will continue to oppose the establishment of diplomatic relations between Armenia and Turkey and reopening of their border before a resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict that would satisfy Azerbaijan. One of them, the Nationalist Movement Party, has slammed the Western-backed agreements as a Turkish “surrender” to Armenia.
Turkey’s governing Justice and Development Party (AKP), which controls the majority of parliament seats, has yet to formulate its position on the protocol ratification. Its leader, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has repeatedly stated in recent months that Ankara will not normalize ties with Yerevan as long as the Karabakh conflict remains unresolved.
Many politicians and pundits in Yerevan predict that Erdogan’s’ government will block or delay the parliamentary endorsement of the protocols if the presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan fail to achieve a breakthrough in their peace talks in the coming months. Some Turkish commentators have likewise suggested that their ratification is contingent on a Karabakh deal.
Both the United States and the European Union have welcomed the Turkish-Armenian agreements and stressed the need for their speedy implementation. “We urge Armenia and Turkey to proceed expeditiously, according to the agreed framework as described in today’s statement,” a U.S. State Department spokesman said last week.
The protocols’ ratification by the Armenian parliament is widely seen as a forgone conclusion. Both the Republican Party of President Serzh Sarkisian and its two junior coalition partners, which enjoy a comfortable parliament majority, have voiced their unequivocal support for the deal.
Even so, the deal’s most vocal Armenian opponent, the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun), said on Friday it is lobbying members of the parliament majority to break ranks and vote against the ratification. Aghvan Vartanian, one of the nationalist party’s leaders, also told reporters that Dashnaktsutyun will soon draft and circulate specific amendments which it believes must be made in the documents. “I think it will be clear to every educated and thinking person whether they accept this variant,” he said.
Dashnaktsutyun is especially opposed to the planned formation of a Turkish-Armenian panel of historians tasked with looking into the 1915 mass killings of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire. It says that the very existence of such a body would seriously hamper greater international recognition of the massacres as genocide.