Armenia’s governing coalition on Thursday suspended further parliamentary discussions of the normalization agreements with Turkey, citing Ankara’s “unacceptable” conditions for their ratification by the Turkish parliament. (UPDATED)
In a joint statement, the three political parties represented in the Armenian government said the National Assembly, in which they have a solid majority, will not discuss the two protocols “until the Turkish side is ready for the continuation of the process without preconditions.”
“Constructive efforts of the Armenian side and expectations of the international community have continuously run into the Turkish side’s inconsistent and evasive positions and policy of constantly setting preconditions, which have pushed the process of ratifying the Turkish-Armenian protocols, signed in Zurich on October 20, 2009, within reasonable timeframes into deadlock,” they said.
The statement was a further indication that President Serzh Sarkisian will announce a suspension or termination of the universally welcomed normalization process in a televised address to the nation expected on Thursday evening. The presidential press service said late Wednesday that Sarkisian has already made a decision on the future of that process after consultations with coalition leaders and members of his National Security Council.
Sarkisian has repeatedly threatened to scrap the Turkish-Armenian protocols if Turkey fails to ratify them “within a reasonable time frame.” Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and other Turkish leaders have made clear, however, that the Turkish parliament will not endorse the deal before a breakthrough in international efforts to resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
The statement by Armenia’s governing Republican, Prosperous Armenia and Orinats Yerkir parties rejected this linkage as “unacceptable.” It said the Turkish government’s stance, strongly backed by Azerbaijan, is “rendering meaningless further continuation of the ratification process in Armenia’s National Assembly.”
“Since Turkey is not in a position today to ratify the protocols and links it to different issues, in particular with the Nagorno-Karabakh problem, we thought it would be correct if the president of the country suspended [the ratification process] until the Turkish side is able to ratify the protocols,” Galust Sahakian, the parliamentary leader of Sarkisian’s Republican Party (HHK), told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service.
“Turkish side must understand that we are good [diplomatic] players,” he said.
Naira Zohrabian, a senior lawmaker from Prosperous Armenia, expressed hope that Sarkisian will formally withdraw the bill from the parliament. “I think that would be the right step,” she told RFE/RL.
The protocols call for the establishment of diplomatic relations between Armenia and Turkey and the opening of their border which Ankara closed in 1993 out of solidarity with Azerbaijan. They were formally submitted to the Armenian parliament for ratification in mid-February.
Erdogan, meanwhile, said he has “taken note” of the Armenian coalition's decision and said his country remains loyal to the agreement to normalize ties. But he insisted on the Turkish conditions for reconciliation.
“It is up to them to decide how they want to move with the ratification process," the Associated Press quoted Erdogan as telling a news conference. “I have expressed our loyalty to the protocols on numerous occasions. We will press ahead with the process on the principle that treaties are binding.”
“We are evaluating the content of this [Armenian] statement and what it means” legally and politically, Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Burak Ozugergin told AFP news agency. “In this context, we are also discussing steps that could be taken in the coming period,” he added, without elaborating.