The reopening of the Turkish-Armenian border is still not a forgone conclusion despite the newly announced agreement to that effect between Ankara and Yerevan, Foreign Minister Eduard Nalbandian acknowledged on Wednesday.
Nalbandian pointedly declined to dismiss speculation that Turkey could drag out the ratification by its parliament of two draft protocols envisaging a full normalization of relations between the two states. “Whether or not the other side will honor those agreements remains to be seen,” he said.
“We are ready to follow this path,” Nalbandian told a news conference. “Let’s see what and when Turkey will do. We hope that we will continue following that path and implement all agreements.”
In a joint statement issued late Monday, the foreign ministries of Armenia and Turkey said the two governments have agreed to sign the protocols in the next six weeks and then submit them to their parliaments for ratification. One of those documents stipulates that the Turkish-Armenian border will be reopened within two months of the deal’s entry into force.
Opposition leaders and analysts in Armenia say Ankara could delay or block the deal’s mandatory approval by the Turkish parliament, controlled by the ruling Justice and Development Party, to seek more concessions from Yerevan or avoid opening the border before a settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
“Whenever Ankara will need to put pressure on Yerevan or the international community, it could drag out the ratification by means of parliamentary debates,” said Turkologist Artak Shakarian. “They would thereby try to clinch more concessions from both Armenia and the United States.”
Aleksandr Iskandarian, director of the Yerevan-based Caucasus Media Institute, took a similar view. “Although I am not a Turkey expert to make predictions on this issue, I will say that even the published documents show that there is a theoretical possibility that the Turkish parliament could turn the ratification of the documents into a lengthy process,” he said.
Barcin Yinanc, the managing editor of the English-language newspaper "Hurriyet Daily News" in Turkey, likewise asserted that the Turkish parliament may insist on seeing progress on resolving the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict before endorsing the Turkish-Armenian agreement. "Right now, it is a bit difficult to foresee the parliament approving the protocols unless they see substantial progress in the solution of Nagorno-Karabakh," Yinanc told RFE/RL.
“You can’t rule out anything in life,” Nalbandian said when asked by journalists to comment on such possibility. He warned that the Turkish government will find itself at loggearheads with the “entire world” if it drags its feet over the agreement’s implementation.
Nalbandian at the same time did not exclude that Turkey could lift its economic blockade of Armenia, imposed in 1993 out of solidarity with Azerbaijan, as early as the end of this year. “If things follow the same course, then why not?” he said.
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu similarly told Turkey’s NTV news channell on Tuesday that the Turkish-Armenian border could be opened “around New Year.” But in an earlier television interview, Davutoglu said that Ankara will not take any steps that “would hurt the interests of Azerbaijan.” The latter has repeatedly warned the Turks cutting a deal with the Armenians before a Karabakh settlement acceptable to Baku.