Aghjayan: The Protocols: A Disaster for Armenian Foreign Policy

The announcement of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Turkey and Armenia this week has already received both positive and negative critiques from various circles. Unfortunately, the initial reaction has only touched on superficial aspects of the announcement.

Tuesday’s statement by the eastern U.S. and Canada district of the Armenian Democratic Liberal (ADL) is particularly surprising. The ADL seems satisfied that simply announcing diplomatic relations with the promise to “formulate recommendations” for resolving as yet undefined issues suffices for a “political victory for Armenia.” Hallelujah, we can now believe that “Turkey finally realizes that in a civilized world good neighborly relations are beneficial to both countries.” Such assertions lead one to wonder if anyone from the ADL actually read the documents.

A statement by the Bureau of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF) was more cautious and critical of the protocols. The ARF claims the protocols “question the veracity of the Armenian Genocide” and that, while not included explicitly, Turkey continues to include the return of Artsakh (Karabagh) to Azerbaijan as a pre-condition.

Presumably, during the months of negotiations over the language to be contained in the protocols, there were requests by both Turkey and Armenia to include or exclude certain language. So, when one analyzes the final document, it can be viewed from the perspective of which country asked for inclusion of each point and, thus, critique the effectiveness of each country’s diplomacy.

When viewed in that light, the obvious question is what has each country gained and, by correlation, given up. Some statements contained in the protocols are of such a nature as to question why they were included at all. For instance, why is there a need to “condemn all forms of terrorism, violence, and extremism”? Which country asked that this be included and for what purpose? My suspicion is that this was included at the request of Turkey and will be used as a weapon in the dispute over Artsakh. Regardless of the realities, it is well documented that both Turkey and Azerbaijan portray the self-defense of the Armenians in Artsakh as terrorism. The other obvious objective is the security of pipelines through the region.

Again, to analyze the protocols from an Armenian perspective, you must break down each declaration with an eye towards how Turkey will use it as a reason to leave its promises unfulfilled. What exactly are those promises (i.e. what has Turkey given up)? A review of the protocols indicates only one item that could even remotely be termed an ask from Armenia, and that is the opening of the border with the resulting commerce.

The issue is that the opening and closing of the border can be done effortlessly and immediately, as required. Thus, any action by Armenian that Turkey deems a breach in the protocols would lead to an immediate closure of the border. From Turkey’s perspective, all the better if Armenia becomes reliant on the cross-border commerce.

Unfortunately, what Armenia has given up cannot be retaken so easily. For instance, Armenia continues to affirm the existing border with Turkey and the formation of an historical commission.

The vague objectives of the commission hardly give one a warm feeling—to “implement a dialogue with the aim to restore mutual confidence” is not exactly aiming high. In addition, the promise of “impartial scientific examination” cannot be guaranteed. The unstated “existing problem” of course is the recognition of the Armenian Genocide and, as many have already pointed out, that has already been internationally accepted.

Finally, the inclusion of a “commitment to refrain from pursuing any policy incompatible with the spirit of good neighborly relations” must be questioned in light of affirmation of the Armenian Genocide. Either Turkey will claim that efforts at international recognition of the Armenian Genocide will constitute a policy that is counter to “good neighborly relations” or, more appropriately, Armenia should demand Turkey cease all efforts to deny the genocide as denial of a known genocide is clearly meant to demean Armenians and threaten Armenia.

Contrary to the assertions of the ADL, the protocols are a disaster for Armenian foreign policy.

George Aghjayan

George Aghjayan

George Aghjayan is the Director of the ARF Archives and a member of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF) Central Committee of the Eastern United States. Aghjayan graduated with honors from Worcester Polytechnic Institute in 1988 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Actuarial Mathematics. He achieved Fellowship in the Society of Actuaries in 1996. After a career in both insurance and structured finance, Aghjayan retired in 2014 to concentrate on Armenian related research and projects. His primary area of focus is the demographics and geography of western Armenia as well as a keen interest in the hidden Armenians living there today. Other topics he has written and lectured on include Armenian genealogy and genocide denial. He is a frequent contributor to the Armenian Weekly and, and the creator and curator, a website dedicated to the preservation of Armenian culture in Western Armenia.


  1. In the next few months, if not years, we will see how for every issue that is beneficial to Armenians will be pronounced as “Anti-Protocolical” by the turks. In the same way that they played the “Armenia and Turkey Normalization of Relations” card, which almost destroyed the Genocide Recognition processes in the West.
    The best way for Armenians to pursue diplomatic relations with Turkey is to not pursue any such relations at all. When nations are at perpetual war with each other, diplomacy is a waste of time.

  2. Um, great. So what should Armenians do about these proposed agreements? At the end of the day, who really cares about what the ADL has to say? Shouldn’t forces in the Armenian diaspora put pressure on the Sarkisian administration to step away from this process of establishing diplomatic relations with Turkey? We know the protocols are not in Armenia’s favor, that was obvious months ago. Now what?

  3. Hye, By George!  Excellent ‘dissection’ of  Protocols…  I refer to your paragraph 5, (which Turkey shall also use in the dispute for Artsakh):  “Condemn all forms of terrorism, violence and extremism” – and your question: ” which country asked this be included and for what purpose?”  Yes, worthy of much further examination.  An example, recently and  over  years, in the Bush/Turkey approach to  Kurds – they  labeled Kurds as ‘terrorists’ which reeks of precisely this wording – thus an opening for  Turks to pursue their policy  to eliminate Kurds as they did  Armenians – Turkey for only Turks.  Turkish foreign policy in action!  Kurds are as freedom fighters against tyranny of the Turks… Another Turkish ploy today,  appropriate to the moment,  Turks now choose that they are   ‘getting along with Kurds’…. Morally, shall  all Turkish transgressions against humanity shall be forgotten, forgiven, even erased from history?   The list of all these Turkish ‘ploys’ –  exist, always in last possible moment.  Historically,  Turkey, signs agreements (over the last nearly 100 years from WWI) but chooses not to abide by any.   Latest,   the ‘road map’…  is  prime example of  Turkish (Ottoman) foreign policy.  Turks chose their own ‘labels’ to justify their own policies – labelled their own  victims – Christian Armenians – in order to commit a Genocide of a people, a nation, a culture. Manooshag

  4. The Armenian Cause will die if the Armenian parliament, owned and operated by Serge Sargsian, ratifies these protocols.  

    All the good work that the ARF has ever worked on will die.

    The “protocols” sign away virtually all Armenian rights to ever make demands of Turkey. The homeland is gone forever.

    The genocide issue  will die since even the Armenian government itself is willing to let the issue languish in a historical commission composed partly of Turkish genocide deniers.

    Again, you can kiss Hye Tahd goodbye if these totally one-sided protocols pass. 

    I can’t say it too many times: Hye Tahd is about to die.  Have no doubt about that.

  5. This reaction, or more like, lack of any positive comments about the relations taking a positive turn is disturbing but not surprising.  Is it not Armenians who have been clamoring for opening of the borders?  It seems diaspora prefers an Armenia condemned to economic and political bacwaters rather than see a normalization of relationsions between the neigboring countries where Armenia would have the most to benefit.  All this so that toch of hate can be carried and hope of a Greater Armenia be kept alive? Was that not how a great disaster was put in motion in the first place?

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