President Serzh Sarkisian held out hope for Armenian electricity exports to Turkey on Tuesday just as one of his top diplomats warned that Yerevan may still formally rescind the Turkish-Armenian normalization agreements.
Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian, meanwhile, brushed aside continuing domestic criticism of the Sarkisian administration’s policy on Turkey and accused Armenia’s previous leadership of committing foreign policy “mistakes.”
Sarkisian touched, in passing, upon his decision to freeze Armenian parliamentary ratification of the agreements as he chaired a regular meeting of his advisory Council on Atomic Energy Safety. He said the opening of the Turkish-Armenian frontier, which he described as “Europe’s last closed border,” would give a massive boost to energy cooperation in the region.
“Despite the fact that the process has been suspended because of the Turkish government’s inactivity, we see a potential to export electricity to Turkey and, by transit, on to countries of the Middle East,” the president said. He did not specify whether he thinks Armenian power supplies could start before the Turkish-Armenian protocols are put into effect.
An agreement on such deliveries was reportedly reached by Armenian and Turkish energy companies during Turkish President Abdullah Gul’s historic visit to Yerevan in September 2008. Energy Minister Armen Movsisian and other Armenian officials repeatedly said in the following months that power grids in eastern Turkey are gearing up electricity supplies from Armenia.
Movsisian said in October last year that the energy deal has not been implemented because of “political problems in Turkey.” The effective freezing of the Turkish-Armenian protocols announced by Sarkisian on April 22 seems to have made the launch of energy cooperation between the two neighboring states even more problematic.
Speaking to RFE/RL’s Armenian service after the meeting of the presidential council, Deputy Foreign Minister Arman Kirakosian defended Sarkisian’s decision not to walk away from the protocols despite Ankara’s refusal to unconditionally ratify them.
“Let us not forget that we too have an option to withdraw our signatures [from the protocols,]” Kirakosian said. “That is a variant. Depending on further developments in the process, we may use that variant.”
The diplomat added that such a scenario will be “definitely possible” if the normalization process remains deadlocked. But he could not say just how long Yerevan is ready to wait.
“If there are credible statements and actions by the Turkish leadership, there will be adequate steps on our part,” Nalbandian told Armenian Public Television late on Monday. “But I see no need whatsoever to start new negotiations [with Ankara.]”
Nalbandian also hit out at domestic critics of the Sarkisian administration’s policy on Turkey. He said recent resolutions approved by U.S. and Swedish lawmakers disproved their claims that the Turkish-Armenian rapprochement will halt broader international recognition of the Armenian genocide.
And in an apparent jibe at former President Robert Kocharian, Nalbandian said: “You know, when it comes to ensuring the continuity of foreign policy, that doesn’t mean we should continue mistakes. We must not repeat mistakes, and it is this logic that led the president of the republic to start this process.” He did not elaborate.
Earlier on Monday, a key member of the Kocharian administration, former Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian, renewed his strong criticism of the protocols and said Sarkisian has opted for the worst possible response to the Turkish delay tactic. “If there were half a dozen possible exit strategies from this situation – from doing nothing to revoking Armenia’s signature – the government has chosen the option least beneficial to us,” Oskanian said in a statement.
Kirakosian, who served as deputy foreign minister also under Oskanian, disagreed with the claim, arguing that Sarkisian’s move has been praised by the United States and other foreign powers. “I think it was the right decision,” he said. “Right now we are waiting to see what developments will occur in Turkey in relation to the ratification process.”