“For us it is absolutely unacceptable to normalize relations with Turkey at the expense of a viable and sovereign existence of our state and the state-national rights of generations,” Dashnaktsutyun said in a statement. “Being committed to these principles, we regard as unacceptable and condemnable the signing by Armenia’s Foreign Ministry on April 22 of a joint statement with Turkey.”
The influential nationalist party said the announced “roadmap” for normalizing Turkish-Armenian relations marked a “negative change” in Armenia’s foreign policy. Dashnaktsutyun’s leadership will therefore “discuss in the coming days the expediency of its participation” in President Serzh Sarkisian’s four-party coalition government, it said.
Giro Manoyan, a senior Dashnaktsutyun representative, told RFE/RL that party leaders plan to meet and demand explanations from Sarkisian after he returns from a visit to Moscow. The issue is likely to be on the agenda of Saturday’s meeting of Armenia’s National Security Council. Dashnaktsutyun’s Armen Rustamian is a member of the presidential body.
Dashnaktsutyun’s dramatic move, which could have major repercussions for political developments in Armenia, came the day after the party’s top leader, Hrant Markarian, publicly lambasted Sarkisian’s year-long diplomatic overtures to Turkey, saying that they have seriously damaged Armenia’s national interests. He said that Yerevan has made major concessions to Ankara while failing to secure the lifting the of the Turkish economic blockade of Armenia.
Eduard Sharmazanov, the chief spokesman for Sarkisian’s Republican Party of Armenia, dismissed the Dashnaktsutyun criticism and defended the Armenian president’s Western-backed policy on Turkey. “I don’t think it right to make such extreme evaluations,” Sharmazanov told RFE/RL.
Markarian voiced the criticism as he and other Dashnaktsutyun leaders spoke at a special seminar in Yerevan on Turkish-Armenian relations. They seem to have been unaware that the Turkish and Armenian foreign ministries are about to issue a joint statement.
Dashnaktsutyun emphasized the fact that the statement came on the eve of the annual commemoration of more than one million Armenians slaughtered during the dying years of the Ottoman Empire. It warned earlier that the Turks are exploiting the dialogue with Armenia to prevent an official U.S. recognition of the massacres as genocide.
The party also cited on Thursday “overtly anti-Armenian statements” made by Turkish leaders of late -- an apparent reference to their renewed linkage between Turkish-Armenian relations and the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
In Manoyan’s words, the Sarkisian administration has effectively accepted this and other Turkish preconditions and has gained nothing in return. He insisted that Turkey will not reopen the border anytime soon.
“When you draw up a roadmap for negotiations, you plan for a long, very long period,” said Manoyan. “This contradicts the notion that these negotiations must be quick and productive and that they will otherwise be meaningless.”
Vladimir Karapetian, the foreign policy spokesman for the main opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK), agreed, calling the Turkish-Armenian agreement “very dangerous” and “defeatist.” “I think the statements bears out Turkish claims that the border will not be anytime soon and confirms the failure of Armenia’s foreign policy,” he told RFE/RL.
“In essence, Armenia’s authorities are assisting in Turkey’s efforts to stop the recognition of the Armenian genocide by third countries,” charged Karapetian. “No country has recognized the Armenian genocide during Serzh Sarkisian’s rule and that is the result of his inept policy.”
The Turkish-Armenian statement was also a “cause for deep concern” for Armen Martirosian, the parliamentary leader of the opposition Zharangutyun (Heritage) party. “It is too vague and doesn’t specify the points over which the negotiations are being held,” said Martirosian.
Dashnaktsutyun agreed to join Sarkisian’s coalition cabinet a year ago despite challenging him in the February 2008 presidential election. Its leaders have repeatedly voiced serious misgivings about the ensuing thaw in Turkish-Armenian ties. The party, which has branches in all major Armenian communities abroad, has traditionally favored a harder line on Turkey.