Sassounian: Who Will Blink First, Armenia or Turkey?

After months of rampant rumors and news leaks, the Foreign Ministries of Armenia and Turkey, with Switzerland as mediator, issued a joint statement on Aug. 31, making public the text of two protocols intended to regulate their problematic relationship.  In a previous joint statement released on April 22, Armenian and Turkish officials stated that they had agreed to a “roadmap” which was to normalize their relations “within a reasonable timeframe.” At the time, the two sides had indicated their agreement in principle by “initialing” the two protocols, the text of which was not published until Aug. 31. This lengthy delay was due to Turkey backing down from the “roadmap” under pressure from Azerbaijan, whose president had insisted that Turkey keep its border with Armenia closed until the Karabagh (Artsakh) conflict is resolved.

During the ensuing months, in the absence of any progress in Armenian-Turkish relations, there was widespread speculation on whether Armenian President Serge Sarkisian would agree to travel to Turkey on Oct. 14 to attend the World Cup qualifying soccer match between the national teams of the two countries. The Armenian president attempted to pressure Turkey to keep its end of the bargain in the declared “roadmap” by announcing that he would go to Turkey only if the border were open, or on the threshold of being opened.

The American government was also pressuring Turkey to move forward with the envisaged agreement with Armenia. In recent days, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton telephoned both Sarkisian and Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu to help overcome any remaining stumbling blocks. Since President Obama had broken his campaign promise by not using the term “Armenian Genocide” in his April 24 statement, under the pretext that doing so would undermine the on-going “delicate” negotiations between Armenia and Turkey, the United States sought some progress in these two countries’ relations, as a face-saving measure for the American president.

As a result, Armenia and Turkey disclosed for the first time on Aug. 31 the actual text of the two protocols and announced that they “have agreed to start their internal political consultations” on the “Protocol on the establishment of diplomatic relations” and the “Protocol on the development of relations.” These consultations are to be completed within six weeks, after which the two states will sign and submit these protocols to their respective parliaments for ratification.

The first Protocol commits the two sides to open their common border and to establish diplomatic relations. It also requires Armenia and Turkey to recognize “the existing border between the two countries as defined by the relevant treaties of international law.” This is an important requirement for Ankara as it seeks to put an end to Armenian claims to “historic Armenian lands,” now part of the territory of the Republic of Turkey. On the other hand, many Armenians would reject this provision, as they want to leave the door open for future claims on the usurped territories, including Mount Ararat.

The second protocol contains the most controversial element of both documents. It states that Armenia and Turkey “agree to implement a dialogue on the historical dimension with the aim to restore mutual confidence between the two nations, including an impartial scientific examination of the historical records and archives to define existing problems and formulate recommendations.” An “intergovernmental bilateral commission” would first be established, comprised of several sub-commissions, one of which would deal with “historical” issues. A “timetable” attached to the second protocol further specifies that Armenian, Turkish, as well as Swiss and other international experts shall take part in the deliberations of “the sub-commission on the historical dimension.”

These two protocols are bound to raise serious concerns and could cause major political turmoil within Azerbaijan, Turkey, and Armenia.  Azeri President Aliyev would most probably once again go on a rampage against Turkey, as he did during the announcement of the first “roadmap” on April 22. Given Azerbaijan’s valuable energy resources and their transit through Turkey, Ankara’s leaders can ill-afford to ignore Aliyev’s temper tantrums!

There could also be turmoil within Turkey as both the political opposition and elements of the “deep-state” may organize massive demonstrations and denounce Turkish President Gul and Prime Minister Erdogan for being unpatriotic and favoring relations with Armenia over “brotherly” Azerbaijan. Such accusations could chip away just enough votes from the ruling majority in the Turkish Parliament to reject the ratification of the protocols.

Ratification is also not a foregone conclusion in Armenia. For more than a year, many Armenians both in Armenia and the diaspora have vigorously complained to the government about the wisdom of negotiating such an agreement. They objected to the plan to establish a sub-commission on “historical” issues, which by its very nature would cast doubt on the veracity of the Armenian Genocide. In addition, many Armenians do not accept “the existing border” with Turkey, in order not to preclude future Armenian territorial claims. The apprehension created by this document could lead to large demonstrations both inside and outside of Armenia and cause serious political dissension, jeopardizing Armenia’s stability and security.

Given the pressure brought to bear on the Armenian government by Russia, the United States, and Europe, it will not be easy for Yerevan to back down from going forward with this agreement. Nevertheless, all is not lost. It is wholly possible that as a result of a sharp confrontation between Azerbaijan and Turkey on this issue, compounded by domestic opposition to the Gul/Erdogan regime, the Turkish government may quietly urge its parliamentary majority not to ratify these protocols. To maintain the heat on Turkey and force it to blink first, Armenia should not sign any agreement with Azerbaijan over Artsakh for the time being. It is also possible that the outcry by Armenians worldwide against these protocols would convince the Armenian government not to go through with this agreement and urge its majority in parliament to vote against it.

Unfortunately, the repeated warnings to the Armenian authorities by this writer and others at the start of these negotiations went unheeded. It would have been much easier back then to make appropriate policy adjustments and take corrective measures. Should Armenia back down from this agreement first, it may bring upon itself the wrath of the major powers. Nevertheless, at this critical juncture, the Armenian government’s preeminent concern should be safeguarding the country’s national interest rather than earning brownie points from foreign powers!

Harut Sassounian

Harut Sassounian

California Courier Editor
Harut Sassounian is the publisher of The California Courier, a weekly newspaper based in Glendale, Calif. He is the president of the Armenia Artsakh Fund, a non-profit organization that has donated to Armenia and Artsakh one billion dollars of humanitarian aid, mostly medicines, since 1989 (including its predecessor, the United Armenian Fund). He has been decorated by the presidents of Armenia and Artsakh and the heads of the Armenian Apostolic and Catholic churches. He is also the recipient of the Ellis Island Medal of Honor.


  1. Ankara and Baku have coordinated there Steps and know the rule of games very well. These two absolute Anti-Armenian protocols are designed and announced to destabilize Armenia… There is no “Armenian Government” but a group of untalented people working hand in hand with oligarchs for there own interests..

  2. Armenia is pushed by the U.S. to establish relations with Turkey, and forget the massacre of 1.5 million Armenians by Turks in 1915 that kept the two countries in a hostile mold. The U.S. strives for a foothold
    of influence in the region after its debacle in Georgia, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, and after the failure of the Ukrainian bid to join the West. But unless Turkey recognize and apologize for the massacre of 1915, it would be high treason for any Armenian leader to wipe out Armenian history and abandon its people in Nagorno-Karabakh to please the U.S.

    The Nagorno-Karabakh is essentially the Kosovo of Azerbaijan, which Armenia took control from Azerbaijan to protect its majority of Armenian inhabitants – as the U.S. and its allies took military control of Kosovo, gave it to the majority Albanians, and recognized it as independent state. But Turkey wants to
    take back Nagorno-Karabakh from Armenia and return to Azerbaijan, because the Azeris are Moslems -as are the Turks, while the Armenians are Christians. And here is how the double standards of Turkey and the U.S. play out in the Armenian-Azerbaijan conflict. And if the Kosovo’s Moslems deserved a foreign invasion to obtain their independence from Christian Serbia, so the Christian Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh deserve their independence from Moslem Azerbaijan.

    I predict that the Turkey-Armenian pact will fail because the Armenian opposition and the Armenian diaspora will not allow their government to sell out their history and their brothers in Nagorno-Karabakh to protect
    the U.S. interest in Turkey, and Turkey’s interest in Moslem Azerbaijan.
    Sure Azerbaijan has a lot of oil, and the U.S. forced its oil companies to
    built a long oil pipeline through Turkey – rather than a short one to the Black Sea – so Turkey can be rewarded with transit fees for its loyalty to the U.S. Now the U.S. tries to heap up more favors to its ally Turkey by pushing hard Armenia to sweep under the rug its genocidal history by the Turks, and recognize Turkey unconditionally – without even an apology.
    And if that happens, then Turkey will use its new status to push Armenia
    to cede back Nagorno-Karabakh to Azerbaijan! This is certainly a
    sellout of Armenian history, and a betrayal of Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh
    that will have to go through a convulsion of future efforts and schemes by the
    U.S. and Turkey to be returned to Azerbaijan.

    Wake up Armenia! The diplomatic Trojan Horse of the U.S. and Turkey has
    a Pandora’s Box in its belly. Nikos Retsos, retired professor

  3. Poor Robert Kocharian. Wasn’t he the one who said that ” For us, universal values such as justice, morality and peace cannot be disputed and it is for this reason that we pursue the restoration of historical truth. ” He must be fleeing the country as we speak…
    A “historical commission”? Wasn’t such a thing called the “Nuremberg Trials” in the case of the Holocaust? How about we save the people of Turkey and Armenia from the financial and hysterical burden of such a commission by publishing it’s final report right now, with the following quote as it’s sole content: “The Armenian Genocide is a historical fact, despite the efforts of some to minimize its scope and deny its occurrence.” -Jerry Costello

  4. If this roadmap/protocol nonsense follows through, Sarkisian and his cronies can guarantee one less visitor to Armenia next summer. I refuse to support the Sarkisian administrations reckless rampage of indiscriminate concessions to arch foes and thier veiled mouthpieces.
    No surrender; no defeat; no capitulation.
    Baykar Minchev Verch.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.