Carrying banners and chanting “No concession to Turkey!” the protesters also demanded that the Armenian government accept specific amendments to the two protocols put forward by the nationalist party.
One of the amendments wants the protocols to explicitly state that Armenia and Turkey are normalizing their relations “without preconditions.” Another relates to the planned formation of a Turkish-Armenian inter-governmental “sub-commission” tasked with studying the 1915-1918 mass killings and deportations of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire.
Dashnaktsutyun is strongly opposed to such a study, saying that Ankara would use it to discourage more countries from recognizing the massacres as genocide. It says the sub-commission in question should instead promote a “dialogue aimed restoring mutual trust between the two peoples.”
The proposed changes were swiftly circulated in Armenia’s parliament. “We expect the deputies to at least familiarize themselves these proposals and take them seriously,” Hrayr Karapetian, a Dashnaktsutyun lawmaker, told RFE/RL.
The initial reaction of leaders of the parliament’s pro-government majority was less than positive. Galust Sahakian, the parliamentary leader of President Serzh Sarkisian’s Republican Party (HHK), said Dashnaktsutyun’s concerns are “unacceptable” to the HHK.
“I don’t think that these are very serious proposals,” said Heghine Bisharian of the Orinats Yerkir Party, a junior partner in Sarkisian’s governing coalition. “We support the country’s president and the protocols that exist today,” she told RFE/RL.
Only the opposition Zharangutyun party voiced support for Dashnaktsutyun’s initiative. The two opposition forces hold between them only two dozen seats in the 131-member National Assembly. Observers say Sarkisian should therefore have little trouble securing the mandatory parliamentary approval of the Turkish-Armenian protocols.
Meanwhile, some 50 Dashnaktsutyun members camped outside the Armenian prime minister’s office in Yerevan’s main square, while 24 others began a collective hunger strike outside the nearby Foreign Ministry building. The hunger strike will have a largely symbolic character, though, as participants said that they and other Dashnaktsutyun members will take turns in refusing food for two days.
“We demand that the government abandon plans to sign the Turkish-Armenian protocols,” one of the protesters told RFE/RL. “We hope that our authorities have retained a little common sense.”
“We demand our lost homeland,” said another. “We demand that they don’t betray our feelings for the lost homeland.”
It was an apparent reference to another key provision one of the protocols that commits Armenia to explicitly recognizing its existing border with Turkey. Dashnkatsutyun has strongly objected to it.
Armenia -- Vahan Hovannisian, a leader of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation, talks to journalists on September 15, 2009.
Police officers at the scene did not attempt to impede or end the protest which Dashnaktsutyun leaders said will last until the end of a six-week period set by the authorities in Ankara and Yerevan for “internal political consultations” on the highly sensitive matter. Vahan Hovannisian, a Dashnaktsutyun leader, claimed that unlike their Turkish counterparts, Armenia’s leaders have still not initiated such discussions in earnest.
“Unfortunately what is happening in Turkey is not happening in Armenia,” Hovannisian told journalists. “There has been no [official] discussion at any level. That certainly arouses our discontent. We are concerned that they are trying to keep the society away from politics.”
President Sarkisian plans to meet the leaders of dozens of Armenian political parties and discuss with them his Western-backed policy towards Turkey on Thursday. Hovannisian confirmed that he and other Dashnaktsutyun leaders will attend the meeting.