Armenia’s main nationalist forces opposed to the unprecedented rapprochement with Turkey initiated by the current government have vowed joint action to stop the signing of the deal that they view as detrimental to the country’s state and national interests.
Several Armenian political parties, including Zharangutyun (Heritage) of ex-foreign minister Raffi Hovannisian, opposed to the policies of President Serzh Sarkisian and his majority allies in government and parliament on Turkey on Tuesday joined the initiative of the key government critic, the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF) that has pushed for the current process of normalization with Ankara to be aborted unless changes are made in the text of the two draft protocols envisaging the establishment of diplomatic ties and opening of the border between the two historical foes.
The ARF and other critics in and outside Armenia have expressed serious concern about several key points of the protocols that were initialed on August 31 and are expected to be signed later this month by the two countries’ foreign ministers.
A joint statement signed on behalf of eleven parties that also include Aram Karapetian’s Nor Zhamankner (New Times), the People’s Party led by Tigran Karapetian, Aram Sarkisian’s Democratic Party, the Ramkavar-Azatakan Party of Armenia and others, challenged the protocol clause that commits Armenia to recognizing its existing border with Turkey.
The parties said in their statement that Armenia and Turkey have no mutual treaty other than the 1921 Treaty of Kars that defines Armenia’s current border. They said by recognizing the existing border Armenia, for the first time as an independent state, will ratify the part of the treaty that is essential to Turkey thereby meeting one of its key preconditions.
The parties also voiced their concern over the planned establishment of a Turkish-Armenian intergovernmental sub-commission to conduct an “impartial scientific examination of historical documents and archives” that they claim will put an end to the further international push for the world’s governments to recognize the World War One-era killings of more than one million Armenians as genocide. They view this provision as the satisfaction of Turkey’s second longstanding precondition.
Another major concern expressed by the parties regards the synchronized and interlinked timeframe between the Armenia-Turkey normalization and the Armenian-Azerbaijan talks on the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute as well as the clause in the protocols that refers to the principle of territorial integrity and does not mention the principle of the right of nations to self-determination.
“Thus, Turkey gets an opportunity to get [Armenia] to meet its next precondition demanding that Armenia and mediators should ensure developments in the Karabakh settlement process suitable to it. And finally, by registering a bilateral decision to open the border that was closed by Turkey unilaterally, Turkey in fact shares its responsibility for keeping the border closed until today with Armenia,” the statement said.
Representative of the ARF Executive Council of Armenia Armen Rustamian said the statement was open for other political parties and groups to join.
“The situation is indeed very serious, and the political groups that put their signatures to this joint statement set the beginning of the formation of a single front that will make it possible to prevent developments that are undesirable and damaging for us,” emphasized Rustamian.
Rustamian added that they still hope the Armenian authorities will not sign the protocols.
Despite its vocal opposition to the protocols, the ARF has so far refrained from making demands for Sarkisian’s resignation. Meanwhile, the nationalist party has sought the resignation of Foreign Minister Eduard Nalbandian, a stance criticized and derided by the more radical and influential opposition alliance, the Armenian National Congress (HAK) of ex-president Levon Ter-Petrosian, which has been seeking Sarkisian’s resignation despite largely endorsing his dramatic thaw with Turkey.
“This is an issue of a pan-national significance. This is not a matter of leadership change. This is an issue of our future, our future generations… This unity, in its essence, is pure and sincere. I am confident that all national forces must come to this field,” said Rustamian.
Rustamian said the HAK had not been approached as a single alliance and asked to join the statement, even though some of its member parties had been offered to sign. “They [these parties] also expressed concern, but perhaps out of some political considerations did not join,” he added.
Zharangutyun Party Board Chairman Armen Martirosian said the party had offered cooperation to both the HAK and the ARF, but only the ARF responded to the offer.
Nor Zhamanakner’s Aram Karapetian said that the party uses “all spheres of cooperation”, being with the ARF on the Armenian-Turkish problems and cooperating with the HAK on the country’s domestic problems, in particular in the matter of demanding President Sarkisian’s resignation.
“Wait a little. Perhaps all this will snowball into one single stance that this government cannot lead the process either inside or outside the country so that the Armenian people should feel secure,” said Karapetian. “I think that Armenia today is getting ready for a new wave. The field is becoming more opposition. Believe me, the new wave will begin soon.”