Protocols For Relations Between Armenia and Turkey

unityTo generate more discussion about the protocols that are meant to normalize relations between Armenian and Turkey, which are to be signed in about five weeks time then ratified by both Turkish and Armenian parliaments, I have taken it upon myself to list the points of the first protocol and criticize each one. The opinions expressed here are simply my own and do not represent the viewpoints of any political organization, public interest group, or media source, including Hetq Online which sponsors this blog.

What I am writing here is based simply on what I know, keeping in mind that I am certainly not a political analyst and have no background in political science. If you agree with what I write or find that I am outright mistaken, explain your views in the comments section. Also persuade others to read this post–the more discussion about this topic, the better.

I want to add that preconditions on the Turkish side do in fact exist in the first protocol. If you read the text carefully you will understand this.

Below is the text of the first protocol with my comments below each point in italics.

Protocol on the Establishment of Diplomatic Relations between the Republic of Armenia and the Republic of Turkey.

The Republic of Armenia and the Republic of Turkey.

Desiring to establish good neighbourly relations and to develop bilateral cooperation in the political, economic, cultural and other fields for the benefit of their peoples, as envisaged in the Protocol on the development of relations signed on the same day.

“Good neighbourly relations” cannot be established between the two republics until the Turkish government and the people of Turkey officially recognize the Armenian Genocide. This must be a precondition of Armenia; it is not possible to forge relations with Turkey without this stipulation. You cannot trust your neighbor until he admits to having committed wrongdoing, namely committing mass murder. It defies logic for Armenia to form friendly relations with Turkey on the basis of trust, mutual understanding and whatever other nonsense if Turkey will not recognize the Genocide, it’s very simple. Furthermore, Turkey has no right to exercise its influence on Armenian foreign policy, especially on the resolution of the Nagorno-Karabagh dispute. This point and others below suggest that it would.

Regarding economic relations–they already exist in one-sided trade. Turkish imports are everywhere in the Armenian marketplace, despite the fact that formal diplomatic relations do not exist. One of the main reasons for opening the border is to develop trade. Unfortunately, Armenia has nothing of interest to offer Turkey. Armenia’s industries have been crippled since independence, so it has nothing to produce that Turkey could ever want. Armenian importers are thus looking for a shorter route so it will not have to rely on Georgia’s roads. However, there are no guarantees that the customs fees which Turkey will impose will not be higher than those paid at the Georgian border. There’s no telling how prices of imports will be affected. They can’t get much cheaper than they already are, that’s for certain. Even the price of European imports that enter Armenia via Turkey can’t possibly decrease—they aren’t that unaffordable for the middle class to begin with.

Let’s not forget the economic conditions of the rural parts of Armenia. Most areas outside Yerevan have seen little to no development since the fall of the Soviet Union. This is not the consequence of a closed border, rather it is the failure of the Armenian government to stimulate investment outside of Yerevan. It has nothing to do with cold relations between Armenia and Turkey. I don’t think the general financial situation of Armenia is as stable as the government makes it out to be, and I am sure that many others would tend to agree. Certainly the industrial sector is not up to par. Armenia seems to have plenty of power to sell Turkey, but a deal was already brokered in the beginning of the year before the framework was agreed upon in April. Armenia should not even consider opening the border until it can stand strong financially on its own two feet first. As things stand today it is still crippled and it will remain so even if the border is opened.

Referring to their obligations under the Charter of the United Nations, the Helsinki Final Act, the Charter of Paris for a New Europe,

The Turkish republic must fulfill its outline of prerequisites in full so that it can be allowed the privilege of joining the European Union. One of those stipulations is for Turkey to recognize the Armenian Genocide. Twenty nations worldwide (including, ironically enough, Switzerland, which mediated these talks and the formation of the protocols) have recognized the Genocide. So has the European Parliament. So no protocols should be signed until the Armenian Genocide is recognized.

Here is a quote from Rep. Adam Schiff a democrat from California, who was the principal writer of the most recent Armenian Genocide resolution that went before Congress, addressing his concerns about the protocols: “True reconciliation between the Armenian and Turkish peoples will occur when Turkey acknowledges the genocide that was committed by the Ottoman Empire against Armenians from 1915-1923.”If US lawmakers believe this, why aren’t Armenian parliamentarians thinking along the same lines?

Reconfirming their commitment, in their bilateral and international relations, to respect and ensure respect for the principles of equality, sovereignty, non-intervention in internal affairs of other states, territorial integrity and inviolability of frontiers,

Turkey has no right to expect or insist on “respect and ensure respect for the principles of equality, sovereignty, non-intervention in internal affairs of other states, territorial integrity and inviolability of frontiers” until it gets its own state of affairs in order. Turkey has been persecuting the Kurdish people (who are considered “Mountain Turks” by the Turkish government) for decades—perhaps centuries–and continues to do so. Turkey in its previous incarnation has also repressed Assyrians, Greeks and countless other minorities under its exercise of power and influence in the region.

Regarding territorial integrity, let’s start with resolving the question of land reparations to Armenians who were driven out from their homes early in the 20th century. Mutual respect between the two nations should start there.

Also, assuming that diplomatic relations are forged I find it hard to believe that Turkey will not stick its nose in Armenian politics. Turkey will need to ensure that its business and other interests—whatever those may be– are perpetually protected in Armenia, and it will need a government that is cooperative. Which means it will always pressure the Armenian leadership to play along or else. I don’t want to imagine what that ultimatum could be.

Bearing in mind the importance of the creation and maintenance of an atmosphere of trust and confidence between the two countries that will contribute to the strengthening of peace, security and stability of the whole region, as well as being determined to refrain from the threat of the use of force, to promote the peaceful settlement of disputes, and to protect human rights and fundamental freedoms,

Again, there can be no “atmosphere of trust and confidence” unless the Turkish government recognizes the Armenian Genocide and addresses the issue of land reparations. In terms of being able “to promote the peaceful settlement of disputes, and to protect human rights and fundamental freedoms,” Turkey has a lot of work to do on that front having oppressed ethnic and religious minorities, oppositionists, journalists, writers, historians and so on for decades.

Let’s again remember the Kurdish issue. Most recently,Turkey has demonstrated its self-given right to cross the Iraqi border on more than one occasion in an effort to stamp out suspected Kurdish separatists under America’s watch. There is a considerable Yezidi Kurd presence in Armenia today—the Yezidis comprise the largest ethnic minority group in Armenia. Suppose Turkish intelligence received information that Kurdish separatists may be hiding in Armenia, for instance somewhere in the Aragatsotn region where Yezidi communities thrive. According to this point, Turkey will be able to very well exercise its right to maintaining “security and stability of the whole region” by blanket bombing scores of communities as it sees fit to eradicate separatist elements. Turkey has always resorted to using force against the Kurds in the past while Western nations turned a blind eye, thereby repeatedly refusing to intervene and prevent such actions. There’s no reason to believe that Turkey won’t do the same across its border with Armenia. The last thing Armenia needs is to be under the political and possibly internationally perceived protective influence of Turkey in the years subsequent to establishing relations.

Confirming the mutual recognition of the existing border between the two countries as defined relevant treaties of international law,

The current border as defined by the Treaty of Kars in 1921 should not be accepted by the government of Republic of Armenia as being a viable line of demarcation that is in the long-term geostrategic interests of Armenia and its economic development. Turkey must first decide how it will return historic Armenian lands to the control of the Armenian nation first. Then a dedicated, Armenian controlled land route must be established to the Black Sea. That route should preferably lie within Armenia’s borders. Armenia cannot have long-term economic or geostrategic stability without protected, dedicated internationally recognized land access to the Black Sea. The current border was negotiated by the Russians and Turks in 1921 without the territorial integrity of Armenia taken into consideration. The Armenian side was essentially forced by the Bolsheviks to sign the treaty. The deliberation for redrawing the borders must happen now since another chance in the short-term future will not arise again. The Armenian side must not accept the current border as being absolute; there should be discussion at some point about the return of the lands lying across the border to Armenian control, and this point should allow for that leeway. Let’s start with the return of the Kars district first.

The way things stand now, Armenia is much better off with a closed border simply because it is not wholly reliant on Turkey economically speaking. One-sided trade between the two countries is flourishing quite nicely via Georgia, and there’s no stopping it. So I don’t understand what this point has to do with the border opening. This point is clearly a precondition on Turkey’s part.

Emphasizing their decisions to open the common border,

The border is already open, albeit virtually. Armenians have full access to Turkish goods as things stand. Armenia’s economy is holding steady, despite reports issued by the Central Bank of Armenia that the GDP has shrunk by umpteen percentage points. So one has to wonder what exactly the point of having an open border is all about. If it is to promote additional economic growth in Armenia, that can happen only when Armenia is strong enough on its own two feet, which it is not. Most of the country is underdeveloped because of a lack of investment. Perhaps the Armenian government foresees that Turkish investors will develop the regions of Armenia that need help the most. In that case, Turkish businessmen will need to buy up whatever Armenia industry exists and build it up further (or else dismantle it, forcing Armenian laborers to migrate to Turkey or elsewhere). It will also need the land to do so, thus countless hectares would need to be bought as well. In the process Armenian businesses could be bought out, and Armenian oligarchs could easily fall under the control of their wealthier Turkish counterparts. Turkish foodstuffs will undoubtedly hit Armenian store shelves as well for the first time. I can’t see how Armenian producers of consumer goods will be able to compete. What about tourism? Check that off as well—Armenians are already going to Antalya in droves for vacationing. An open border will make visits to Western Armenian sites less problematic from Yerevan for sure. But how does that help Armenia?

Again, the border has to be redrawn before it’s opened. The border as it exists today is not in Armenia’s long-term geostrategic interests, there are no concrete indicators to show that Armenia will benefit from an opened border.  On the contrary, an opened border will not boost Armenia’s economy any further, but will only harm it in the long term. Eventually Armenia would solely become dependent on the Turkish economy with an open border. All it would need is a recession to hit and Armenia’s socioeconomic development will flounder as a result. Turkey could always close the border again if it ever feels the need to for political reasons, just as it did back in 1993 when showing support for Azerbaijan during the Nagorno-Karabagh war. There is no reason to trust Turkey unless Armenia can manage without it. And the only way Armenia could do so is to have dedicated, controlled access to the Black Sea.

Reiterating their commitment to refrain from pursuing any policy incompatible with the spirit of good neighbourly relations,

Anyone who has read a single book about Armenian history will know that historically there have always been rocky relations between the Turks and Armenians. Troubles didn’t start in the 20th century naturally; they’ve been going on for centuries, ever since the Seljuk Turks first showed their faces in these parts. The Turks have always pursued anti-Armenian policies “incompatible with the spirit of good neighbourly relations.” They still do. Every time a resolution to formerly recognize the Armenian Genocide pops up for a vote in the US Congress, it is always shot down at the last minute under Turkish pressure. A row between Turkey and France ensued after France accepted the Armenian Genocide a few years back. Economic relations were soured for six months, then everything went back to normal.

The Turks don’t give a damn about the Armenians, they never did and they never will. Opened borders on the western and eastern Armenian frontiers will facilitate easier road transportation between Azerbaijan and Turkey, who are soul brothers in propagating hate and aversion against Armenians. An open border is not going to smooth things over. It’s just good for business, but against the long-term interests of Armenia economically, politically, and especially, culturally. After all, Armenians are prone to assimilate, with many born in the US being proof-positive of that. I’ve heard South American communities are also struggling with assimilation. Why would it be different on Armenian soil?

Condemning all forms of terrorism, violence and extremism irrespective of their cause, pledging to refrain from encouraging and tolerating such acts and to cooperate against them,

This is perhaps the most ironic, outright hypocritical point in this protocol. Turkey must cease repressive actions against all peoples, citizens or otherwise, living within its borders first and foremost. They include but are not limited to ethnic and religious minorities, oppositionists, journalists (have we forgotten Hrant Dink?), writers, historians and so on and so forth. In this point Turkey must specifically be kept in check that if relations are forged and the border is opened, its military will have no legal mandate to cross Armenia’s borders or air space for conducting military operations. Such a stipulation must be endorsed by Western powers as well as Russia. Armenia cannot be a party to any kind of military aggression against suspected Kurdish separatists, no matter where they may be hiding. Turkey must set a precedent that it is willing to condemn” all forms of terrorism, violence and extremism irrespective of their cause” on its own soil before Armenians can trust it, plain and simple. Turkey can start by recognizing the Armenian Genocide.

Affirming their willingness to chart a new pattern and course for their relations on the basis of common interests, goodwill and in pursuit of peace, mutual understanding and harmony,

Once again, Turkey must recognize the Armenian Genocide and be prepared to give both financial and land reparations to the Armenian nation in the spirit of “goodwill and in pursuit of peace, mutual understanding and harmony.” The inclusion of this point in the protocol is actually surreal, not to mention outright absurd. If Turkey refuses to accept that it committed genocide and cannot guarantee that it will not commit acts of terror against the Armenian nation ever again, what concept of harmony and understanding is this point referring to? This point defies logic and the reality that exists today. Decades of Armenian ill-sentiment and hostility towards Turks will not evaporate with this juvenile article that only mocks the angst that genocide survivors and their descendants have been made to endure for 94 years. Who are the Turks kidding here?

Agree to establish diplomatic relations as of the date of the entry into force of this Protocol accordance with the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations of 1961 and to exchange Diplomatic Missions.

This Protocol and the Protocol on the Development of Bilateral Relations between the Republic of Armenia and the Republic of Turkey shall enter into force on the same day, i.e. on the first day of the first month following of instruments of ratification.

Diplomatic relations cannot be established between Armenia and Turkey at this juncture for the reasons indicated in my comments concerning each point of this protocol.

Signed in (place) on (date) in Armenian, Turkish and English languages authentic copies in duplicate. In case of divergence of interpretation, the English text shall prevail.

For the Republic of Armenia

For the Republic of Turkey

It is obvious that this protocol is meant to thwart Turkey’s internationally anticipated recognition of the Armenian Genocide. By agreeing to these perceived acts of goodwill and cooperation put forth by the Swiss, Turkey is essentially tricking both naïve Armenians and the West that it is sincere in developing lasting, friendly relations with Armenia. I don’t believe that is the case at all. The Turks have always wanted to get rid of the Armenians; that was what they intended to do 94 years ago. But with the border opened, the Turks may finally be able to succeed with Armenian emigration, assimilation and incompetent governance in gear to facilitate their goal.

In the next post I will critique the second protocol and summarize my opinions.

1 thought on “Protocols For Relations Between Armenia and Turkey

  1. Great job, thank you for putting together such a well formed opinion.

    If only government of Armenia can be guided by such opinions, may be it could learn how to develop and follow a national policy, that would not even lead us to the absurd of discussing such protocols.

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