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Sarkisian Again Defends Turkey Policy


Armenia -- President Serzh Sarkisian speaks at a meeting of top representatives of the Armenian Apostolic Church in Echmiadzin on November 2, 2009.

Armenia -- President Serzh Sarkisian speaks at a meeting of top representatives of the Armenian Apostolic Church in Echmiadzin on November 2, 2009.

President Serzh Sarkisian continued to defend his conciliatory policy on Turkey on Monday, reiterating that his administration will not stop seeking international recognition of the Armenian genocide or make additional concessions to Azerbaijan.

He made the assurances at the Echmiadzin headquarters of the Armenian Apostolic Church while attending a meeting of top clerical and secular representatives of its worldwide dioceses that was chaired by Catholicos Garegin II.

Sarkisian delivered a speech there before answering questions from the participants. Judging from statements issued by the president’s and Garegin’s offices, they mainly related to Armenia’s fence-mending protocols with Turkey and the current state of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

Armenia -- President Serzh Sarkisian speaks at a meeting of top representatives of the Armenian Apostolic Church in Echmiadzin on November 2, 2009.
In a written statement, the presidential press service cited Sarkisian as saying that the signing of the protocols “does not mean, in any way, a renunciation of efforts at international recognition of the Genocide.”

Critics of the deal believe that Sarkisian has significantly complicated those efforts by essentially accepting a Turkish proposal to set up a joint panel of history experts that would look into the 1915 mass killings and deportations of Armenians from the Ottoman Empire. They say Ankara will exploit the existence of such a body to prevent more countries from recognizing the massacres as genocide.

Some of them also claim that as part of its “football diplomacy” with Turkey, Armenia has agreed to speed up the resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict with more concessions to Azerbaijan. Armenian leaders have repeatedly denied that, arguing that none of the Turkish-Armenian protocols makes mention of the conflict.

According to the presidential statement, Sarkisian “once again reiterated that those two process are in no way connected with each other.” Armenia’s bitter disputes with Azerbaijan and Turkey should be settled “separately,” he said.

Foreign Minister Eduard Nalbandian likewise insisted on Friday that the Armenian-Turkish thaw and the Nagorno-Karabakh negotiations are “two separate processes.” “This is not only the Armenian approach but the approach of the international community,” he told Reuters.

Nalbandian’s Turkish counterpart, Ahmet Davutoglu, indicated earlier in the week that the Turkish parliament will not ratify the agreements unless international efforts to end the Karabakh dispute yield a breakthrough soon.

Armenian leaders have implicitly threatened to annul the agreements if the Turks “drag out” the ratification process. “If one of the sides will delay and create some obstacles in the way of ratification and implementation, I think it could bear all the responsibility for the negative consequences,” warned Nalbandian. He also made clear that Armenia and Azerbaijan will not cut a framework deal on Karabakh “tomorrow or in one month's time or in a very short period of time.”

Sarkisian, for his part, said on Monday that Yerevan has already devised contingency plans for various “possible scenarios of the process of normalizing relations with Turkey.” He did not elaborate.

Armenia -- Garegin II, head of the Armenian Apostolic Church.
The Armenian Church has been effectively split on the matter. Garegin and top clerics directly subordinated to his Echmiadzin-based Mother See voiced support for Sarkisian’s controversial policy last month.

However, the Lebanon-based Catholicos Aram I, the second most powerful figure in the worldwide church hierarchy, openly condemned the Turkish-Armenian agreements. Aram controls several church dioceses in the Middle East and the United States and is believed to maintain close ties with the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun), a vocal critic of the deal.
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