Turkey has again made clear that it will not implement Western-backed agreements to normalize its relations with Armenia without a resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict acceptable to Azerbaijan.
The Turkish Foreign Ministry at the same time denounced Yerevan’s plans to formally annul the two protocols that were signed in Zurich in 2009.
“These Protocols are still on the agenda of the Turkish Grand National Assembly’s Foreign Affairs Commission and for their ratification it is essential that a favorable political atmosphere and peace in the South Caucasus is secured,” the ministry said in a statement issued late on Thursday.
“In this vein, it is necessary that in the settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict progress is achieved, based on Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity and in light of the relevant resolutions of the UN Security Council,” it said. “In any case, Armenia must put an end to its invasion of Azerbaijan’s territories.”
The statement came in response to Armenian Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian’s statement on Wednesday reaffirming Yerevan’s intention to withdraw its signature from the protocols because of Ankara’s “groundless preconditions” for their parliamentary ratification. “We will enter the spring of 2018 without those futile protocols,” President Serzh Sarkisian declared earlier.
The protocols committed Turkey and Armenia to establishing diplomatic relations and opening their border which Ankara has long kept closed in a show of support for Azerbaijan. Shortly after the high-profile signing ceremony in Zurich, Ankara said that Turkey’s parliament will ratify the deal only if there is decisive progress towards a Karabakh peace.
The Armenian government rejected that precondition, arguing that the protocols make no reference to the conflict. The United States, the European Union and Russia have also repeatedly called for their unconditional implementation by both sides.
While reaffirming the Karabakh linkage, the Turkish Foreign Ministry insisted that Ankara is not responsible for the effective collapse of the 2009 accords. It claimed that Armenia itself introduced “preconditions and restrictive clauses” through a January 2010 ruling handed down by the country’s Constitutional Court.
The court upheld the legality of the protocols. But it also indicated that they cannot have any bearing on the Karabakh conflict or inhibit Armenia’s pursuit of greater international recognition of the 1915 Armenian genocide in Ottoman Turkey.
Unlike Turkey, the U.S. welcomed that ruling. Philip Gordon, a U.S. assistant secretary of state at the time, called it a “positive step forward in the ratification process of the normalization protocols.”
Then U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urged Ankara to drop the Karabakh linkage when she visited Yerevan later in 2010. “Now the ball is in the other court,” Clinton said.