Commenting on the current state of that dialogue on Monday, Sarkisian said Yerevan will not let Ankara “use the negotiating process for misleading the international community.” “Failure to honor mutual agreements leads to greater distrust and a deeper gap and requires much greater efforts in the future,” he said.
A spokesman for Sarkisian’s Republican Party of Armenia (HHK), Eduard Sharmazanov, confirmed that the president responded to Turkish leaders’ renewed linkage between Turkish-Armenian relations and the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Sharmazanov said repeated statements to that effect made by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and other Turkish officials in recent months constitute a “breach of agreements” reached by the two sides. He insisted that those agreements envisaged an unconditional normalization of bilateral ties.
Turkey -- Dogu Kapi border gate to Armenia, in Kars, Akyaka province, 15Apr2009
Until this week official Yerevan avoided publicly commenting on those statements despite mounting criticism of Sarkisian’s conciliatory policy towards Turkey both in Armenia and its worldwide Diaspora. Opposition leaders and other critics believe that Turkey has successfully exploited the process to thwart U.S. recognition of the Armenian genocide without having to reopen its border with Armenia.
“Serzh Sarkisian is the first official to react to [Turkish leaders’] tough statements,” Vladimir Karapetian, a senior member of the opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK), told RFE/RL. “I think this is an adequate reaction and approach, which in turn means that not only there is no progress in bilateral [Turkish-Armenian] relations but that they have actually regressed.”
Stepan Safarian, a parliament deputy from the opposition Zharangutyun (Heritage) party, agreed that Sarkisian’s remarks were long overdue. “Better late than never,” he said. “I think facts have finally come to prove that balance in the process has been breached to the detriment of Armenia.”
A leading member of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun), which quit the governing coalition in April in protest against Yerevan’s overtures to Ankara, likewise welcomed the first public expression of the Sarkisian administration’s discontent with the Turks. Artsvik Minasian claimed that Erdogan’s government was never serious about improving ties with Armenia.
Dashnaktsutyun has repeatedly demanded a halt to the fence-mending negotiations, saying that Armenia has gained nothing from them. “The sooner the president embraces our approach, the more confident Armenia we will have in the international arena,” Minasian told RFE/RL.
“Turkey has simply exploited the process,” said former Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian, another prominent critic of Sarkisian’s foreign policy. “Based on the experience of the past ten years, we should have guessed that Turkey will do just that.”