Turkey’s parliament will not ratify the normalization agreements with Armenia unless international efforts to resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict yield a breakthrough, according to Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu.
“We have been saying that these protocols will have a positive impact on stability in the South Caucasus and particularly on the Armenian-Azerbaijani dispute to end the occupation of Azeri territories by Armenians,” Davutoglu said in an interview with Al Jazeera television aired on Monday. “This is our belief. Such progress will definitely have a very positive impact on the ratification process in our parliament.
“If there is a deterioration of the situation [in the Karabakh dispute] or … if there is no hope for such [progress] then the members of our parliament will have a negative tendency to vote. Therefore, we now have to work on a positive scenario.”
“In order to get a yes [vote,] we need to have some progress in the peace talks because Azerbaijan is a strategic ally and almost a domestic issue for Turkish foreign policy,” stressed Davutoglu. The international community should help to end “the illegal occupation of 20 percent of Azerbaijani territories” if it wants a speedy normalization of Turkish-Armenian relations, he said.
When asked whether that means the government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan will not send the agreements to parliament for ratification before it sees decisive progress in the Armenian-Azerbaijani negotiations, Davutoglu replied, “Yes, of course.”
The minister seemed to play down the fact that Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) has a clear majority in Turkey’s Grand National Assembly. “According to our constitution, the government’s responsibility is just sending these agreements to the parliament,” he said, speaking in English. “We can not impose anything on the parliament.”
Davutoglu’s remarks were in tune with Erdogan’s repeated assurances that Turkey will not open its border with Armenia before a Karabakh settlement acceptable to Azerbaijan. Official Baku, which strongly criticized the signing of the Turkish-Armenian protocols earlier this month, was quick to welcome them.
“Azerbaijan relies on the Turkish side’s assurances that it will not open the border with Armenia without a resolution of the Karabakh problem and we have no reason to doubt the Turkish leadership’s statements on the issue,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Elkhan Polukhov told the 1news.az news agency. “We find very positive the fact that the Turkish leaders adhere to their previous positions on the issue.”
The Armenian government did not react to Davutoglu’s interview as of Tuesday evening. President Serzh Sarkisian implicitly threatened earlier to walk away from the agreements if the Turks fail to implement them “within a reasonable timeframe.” Some of his political allies have spoken of “early spring” as Yerevan’s unofficial deadline for the completion of the ratification process.
Armenian leaders emphasize the fact that neither Turkish-Armenian protocol makes any reference to the Karabakh conflict. Their political opponents claim, however, that the Sarkisian administration promised to make more concessions to Azerbaijan during its fence-mending negotiations with Ankara.