Armenia, Turkey Sign an Agreement of ‘Mutual Understanding’

YEREVAN (A.W.)—A New York Times article that appeared on April 23 confirmed that a framework, defined as a “roadmap,” had been agreed upon by Armenia and Turkey assuring that continuing, mutually beneficial relations between them were forthcoming. However, the Turkish side insisted that the Armenian-Turkish border would remain closed.

“The two parties have achieved tangible progress and mutual understanding in this process and they have agreed on a comprehensive framework for the normalization of their bilateral relations in a mutually satisfactory manner,” a joint statement read.

As of April 23 both the Turkish and Armenian foreign ministries refused to comment on the details of the agreement.

The ARF-Dashnaktsutiun was quick to react, threatening once again that it would pull out of the pro-government coalition if talks continued unabated without acknowledgement of committing genocide against Armenians on Turkey’s part.

“It is absolutely unacceptable for us that relations with Turkey be normalized at the expense of Armenia’s sovereignty, the viability of its existence, or the national and state rights of future Armenian generations,” an official statement by the ARF-Dashnaktsutiun read.

“Deeply committed to these principles, we find unacceptable and condemn the signing, by Armenia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, of the April 22 joint statement with Turkey.”

However, despite the political party’s strong protests, the move to quit the government has not come yet.

The announcement was made by the press the day before April 24, the date when hundreds of thousands of Armenians make their way annually to the Tsitsernakaberd genocide memorial in Yerevan to honor the 1.5 million Armenians massacred between 1915-1923.

It is widely believed that Turkey has agreed to hold diplomatic talks with Armenia over the course of the last eight months in an effort to skirt lobbying efforts by the Armenian National Committee of America urging the US congress to pass a resolution confirming the official recognition of the Armenian Genocide by the US government. President Barrack Obama made several promises during his presidential race to properly recognize the genocide during his tenure as president. However, during a recent visit to Turkey President Obama confirmed that he would not make any public statements that could impede recent Turkish-Armenian diplomatic talks, a goal that is now considered to have been the efforts of the Turkish side all along.

Azerbaijan has recently opposed the unwavering willingness expressed by Turkish officials to warm relations with Armenia. As a result of that pressure, the insistence that the Nagorno-Karabagh issue be resolved was reintroduced as a precursor to the opening of the Armenian-Turkish border. That stipulation had been absent from the agenda of improving relations since Turkish President Abdullah Gul’s visit to Armenia last October.

Both Armenian former prime ministers, Vartan Oskanyan and Raffi Hovhannisian, have recently expressed misgivings about the continuation of diplomatic talks. Their concerns were made public after recent repeated statements made by Turkish officials—including Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan—that a final peace solution to the Nagorno-Karabagh conflict in Azerbaijan’s favor was mandatory before diplomatic relations between Armenia and Turkey could be normalized. The talks were perceived to have been breaking down only days before the new agreement was signed.

Armenians remain split on the issue. Some consider the talks to be a step in the right direction as they may eventually lead to the opening of the border, while others believe that direct, open transit would be devastating to the Armenian economy with a virtual flood of Turkish goods in the marketplace, thus stifling the sale of Armenian-made products. As it already stands low-quality imports from Turkey that enter Armenia on transit routes via Georgia, including construction materials, various household products and clothing, have long been the dominant choice for Armenian consumers as shopkeepers readily and unflinchingly stock them.

The implications of the agreement for Armenia and the Armenian nation are not clear. Clearly the Armenian government is no longer taking into consideration relentless efforts by the Armenian Diaspora in persuading world governments, particularly the United States, to properly acknowledge the massacres as genocide, in the hopes of putting pressure on the Turkish government to do the same. The new agreement directly undermines those efforts since the Turks remain adamant that genocide never occurred. Furthermore, Turkish officials have reaffirmed that there are no plans to open the border between Armenia and Turkey in the near future.

The official agreement will undoubtedly increase the legitimacy of Turkish-Armenian business ventures in spite of a closed border. Armenia is due to begin supplying Turkey with approximately 1.5 billion kilowatt/hours of electricity this spring.

Christian Garbis

Christian Garbis

Christian Garbis is a writer and experimental filmmaker born and raised in Greater Boston. He received his BA in English and Certificate in Film Studies from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. He has been contributing to the Armenian Weekly since 1994 and has served as an assistant editor for the paper. He lives in Yerevan with his wife and son and maintains two blogs documenting his impressions: Notes From Hairenik and Footprints Armenia. His first novel is partly based on his experiences in Armenia.

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