President Serzh Sarkisian has reportedly rejected as “unacceptable” the idea of a joint Turkish-Armenian study of the World War One-era mass killings and deportations of Armenians in Ottoman Turkey.
“The creation of a [Turkish-Armenian history] commission would make sense only if Turkey finally confessed its guilt,” he said in an interview with the German magazine Der Spiegel published over the weekend. “After that scholars would be able to jointly determine the causes of that tragedy.”
In two protocols signed last October, the Armenian and Turkish governments agreed to set up a joint commission tasked with expediting the normalization of their historically strained relations. It would be divided into several “subcommissions” specializing in various areas of mutual interests.
One of those subcommissions would engage in an “impartial scientific examination of historical documents and archives.” This was widely seen as an official euphemism for a joint examination of the Armenian massacres.
Official Yerevan has been at pain to assure Armenian critics of the protocols that the panel would not seek to determine whether the massacres constituted genocide. Turkish leaders have implied the opposite, however.
“The main thing for Ankara is only to delay decisions,” “Der Spiegel” quoted Sarkisian as saying. “Every time the parliaments or governments of foreign states try to adopt genocide resolutions, they would say, ‘Let’s first wait for the findings of the historical commission.’”
“Setting up such a commission would mean calling into question the fact of the genocide perpetrated against our people,” he said, echoing a key argument of Armenian opponents of his conciliatory line on Turkey.
The idea of a Turkish-Armenian history commission was first floated by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan in a 2005 letter to then President Robert Kocharian. The latter rejected the proposal as a Turkish ploy designed to scuttle greater international recognition of the Armenian genocide.
Shortly after taking office two years ago, Sarkisian indicated that he is ready, in principle, to embrace the idea. “We are not against the creation of such a commission, but only if the border between our countries is opened,” he declared during a June 2008 visit to Moscow.
The apparent policy shift in Yerevan cleared the way for an unprecedented rapprochement between the two nations that culminated in the signing of the Turkish-Armenian agreements.
Sarkisian acknowledged in the magazine interview that the rapprochement is now “unraveling.” “The Turks are constantly demanding concessions from us. But that is not possible,” he said, referring to Ankara’s linkage between Turkish ratification of the protocols and a resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.