Armenia and Turkey accused each other on Wednesday of breaching key terms of their landmark agreements, in an intesifying row over the implications of an Armenian Constitutional Court ruling on the deal.
The foreign ministers of the two countries had what appeared to be a tense phone conversation that further dimmed prospects for the normalization of Turkish-Armenian relations.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Yerevan will seriously harm the normalization process unless it “corrects” the Armenian court’s interpretation of the two Turkish-Armenian protocols that were signed in October. "We have never taken the protocol to our Constitutional Court," Reuters quoted him as telling a news conference during a visit to Saudi Arabia. "We took it directly to our parliament, without making changes. We didn't employ a mediator on the text. We didn't carry out any read-between-the-lines operations. This is a proof of our sincerity. Armenia has tried to change the text."
According to the Anatolia news agency, Erdogan also made clear that Ankara will continue to link the parliamentary ratification and implementation of the protocols with a resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict acceptable to Azerbaijan.
The Constitutional Court upheld on January 13 the agreements’ conformity with Armenia’s constitution. It also indicated that the documents can not have any bearing on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict or inhibit Armenia’s pursuit of greater international recognition of the Armenian genocide.
In a statement on Monday, the Turkish Foreign Ministry construed this as “preconditions and restrictive provisions which impair the letter and spirit of the Protocols.” Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu stood by this claim during the phone call with his Armenian counterpart, Eduard Nalbandian. A Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman was reported to say that Davutoglu also claimed that the ratification process is at a far more advanced stage in Turkey than in Armenia.
According to the Armenian Foreign Ministry, Nalbandian told Davutoglu that such statements are “creating the impression of a search for artificial pretexts” for Turkey’s refusal to establish diplomatic relations and open its border with Armenia. A ministry statement said he urged the Turks to stick to “the letter and spirit of the protocols” and “move forward fast.” It said Nalbandian insisted that the Constitutional Court ruling only testifies to the Armenian side’s desire to have them implemented “without undue delays.”
The Turks are understood to be particularly unhappy with the court’s reaffirmation of a clause in the 1990 Armenian declaration of independence which reads, “The Republic of Armenia stands in support of the task of achieving international recognition of the 1915 Genocide in Ottoman Turkey and Western Armenia.” They say this runs counter to a protocol provision envisaging the creation of a Turkish-Armenian panel of experts that would look into the World War One-era massacres.
President Serzh Sarkisian and other Armenian leaders have repeatedly stated in recent months that the “subcommission” would not be tasked with determining whether the massacres constituted genocide. They have said Yerevan will therefore continue to advocate genocide recognition by more countries.