Turkey has condemned Armenia’s influential Prosecutor-General Aghvan Hovsepian for advocating Armenian territorial claims to Ankara in a recent speech.
Addressing a conference of lawyers from Armenia and its worldwide Diaspora in Yerevan on July 5, Hovsepian said Turkey must compensate descendants of some 1.5 million Armenians massacred in the Ottoman Empire during World War I. He also questioned the legality of the current Turkish-Armenian border.
“I strongly believe that the descendants of the genocide must receive material compensation, churches miraculously preserved in Turkey’s territory and church lands must be returned to the Armenian Church, and the Republic of Armenia must get back its lost lands,” Hovsepian declared.
The Turkish Foreign Ministry said it deplores these remarks. “Such a declaration made by an official occupying a position as important as that of Prosecutor General reflects the prevailing problematic mentality in Armenia as to the territorial integrity of its neighbor Turkey and to Turkish-Armenian relations and also contradicts the obligations it has undertaken towards the international organizations of which it is a member, particularly the UN and the OSCE. One should be well aware that no one can presume to claim land from Turkey,” a ministry spokesman said in a weekend statement.
Hovsepian has had considerable political clout in Armenia since the late 1990s. But he has rarely made public statements on Turkish-Armenian relations and foreign policy in general. His controversial remarks at the Yerevan forum apparently reflected his personal opinion.
Successive Armenian governments have said that they have no claims to any lands in the east of modern-day Turkey that were mostly populated by Armenians until the 1915 genocide. However, they have stopped short of formally and explicitly recognizing the existing border between the two neighboring states in the absence of diplomatic relations between them.
One of the two Turkish-Armenian protocols on the normalization of bilateral ties signed in 2009 envisages such recognition. The protocols have never taken effect, however, with the Turkish government making their parliamentary ratification contingent on the resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
Ankara has also protested against the Armenian Constitutional Court’s interpretation of the U.S.-brokered agreements. The court ruled in early 2010 they cannot inhibit Armenia’s pursuit of greater international recognition of the Armenian genocide.
Turkish officials said afterwards that this conclusion runs counter to the letter and spirit of the Turkish-Armenian accord. Armenia’s leadership brushed aside those claims, accusing Ankara of seeking “artificial pretexts” for not normalizing ties with Yerevan. The U.S. State Department likewise described the Armenian court ruling as a “positive step forward in the ratification process of the normalization protocols” that “does not appear to limit or qualify them in any way.”