Former Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian subjected Armenia’s fence-mending agreements with Turkey to harsh criticism on Tuesday, saying that Yerevan is giving the Turks “everything they have wanted for 17 years” and gaining very little in return.
In an emotional speech, Oskanian echoed the arguments of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun) and other vocal opponents of the deal. He rejected government assurances that it calls for an unconditional normalization of Turkish-Armenian relations.
“The document on diplomatic relations with Turkey that we are to sign should lay the groundwork for long-term good-neighborly relations,” he said. “It should enable the two parties to sit down and frankly talk to each other about both the past and the future. But the existing document does not allow for that. In fact, it precludes such discussions.”
Like other critics, Oskanian singled out two controversial provisions of the draft Turkish-Armenian protocols on the establishment of diplomatic relations and reopening of the border between the two countries. One of them envisages the creation of a joint panel of experts that would look into the 1915 mass killings of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire.
The idea of such a study was first floated by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan in a 2005 letter to then President Robert Kocharian. The latter effectively turned down the offer, saying that this and other issues of mutual concern should instead be tackled by a Turkish-Armenian inter-governmental commission.
The creation of such a commission is envisaged by one of the protocols that are expected to be signed by the two governments next month. One of its seven “sub-commissions” is to conduct an “impartial scientific examination of historical documents and archives.”
Foreign Minister Eduard Nalbandian and other allies of President Serzh Sarkisian have said that the sub-commission would not seek to determine whether the Armenian massacres constituted a genocide. Critics, including Oskanian, insist, however, that Ankara will use the very existence of such a body to keep more countries from recognizing the genocide.
Oskanian also vehemently objected to another protocol provision that obliges Armenia to recognize its existing border with Turkey. “With one sentence, we completely cede our historical rights. We even close the possibility, no matter how formal, of restoring historical justice,” he said in remarks reflecting Dashnaktsutyun’s position on the issue.
The nationalist party believes that Armenia should eventually lay claim to formerly Armenian-populated areas in what is now eastern Turkey. While having no such territorial claims, the Kocharian administration, in which Oskanian served for ten years, avoided explicitly recognizing a 1921 treaty that set the current Turkish-Armenian frontier.
Speaking during an event organized by his Civilitas Foundation think-tank, Oskanian linked the perceived alarming developments in Yerevan’s dealings with Ankara to what he described as a lack of democracy in Armenia. “Unfortunately, our country is very far from being a democratic country,” he said. “And yet that’s what our future and security depend on. We have not made serious investments in strengthening our democratic institutions.”