President Serzh Sarkisian has suggested that Turkey will not unconditionally normalize relations with Armenia anytime soon and again threatened to annul the universally welcomed agreements signed by the two nations last October.
In an interview with the French daily “Le Figaro” published on Thursday, Sarkisian also warned that Ankara’s reluctance to ratify them is swelling the ranks of Armenians opposed to his conciliatory policy on Turkey.
“Our desire to establish normal relations is great,” he said. “However, recent statements from Turkey make me think that they will not ratify the protocols in the foreseeable future.
“We had warned that if we become convinced that the Turks are using the normalization process for other purposes we will take appropriate steps. In that case, we will withdraw our signature from the protocols.”
According to Sarkisian, the two governments agreed to put the protocols into practice “within a reasonable time frame and without preconditions” when they inked the deal in Zurich in October 2009. “We have said that Armenia would ratify the protocols immediately after their ratification by Turkey,” he said. “And yet Turkey keeps putting forward preconditions for their ratification, the most important of them relating to Nagorno-Karabakh.”
Sarkisian again avoided setting any deadlines for the Turkish ratification. Officials from his administration implied earlier that the Turkish leadership has until the end of March to endorse the agreements or face their unilateral repeal by Armenia. However, the latest indications are that Yerevan is ready to wait at least until the April 24 annual commemoration of the start of the mass killings and deportations of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire.
U.S. President Barack Obama is due to issue a statement on the occasion, and Ankara hopes that he will again stop short of calling the extermination of more than one million Ottoman Armenians a genocide. Obama avoided using the politically sensitive word last April, citing the need not to undermine the ongoing Turkish-Armenian rapprochement.
Just two days before that statement, the Armenian and Turkish foreign ministries announced that they have worked out a “roadmap” to completing the normalization process. Sarkisian was accused by his political opponents in Armenia and its Diaspora at the time of willingly helping Obama backtrack on a campaign pledge to recognize the Armenian genocide.
Sarkisian told “Le Figaro” that his Turkish policy has caused “a great deal of concern among Armenians around the world.” “As a result of the dragging out of the normalization process, the number of [Armenian] supporters of the protocols is increasingly dwindling,” he warned.
The Armenian leader also reaffirmed Yerevan’s strong support for the passage of a U.S. congressional resolution recognizing the Armenian massacres as genocide. “But the U.S. Congress and State Department hardly make decisions based on our views or wishes,” he added.