Sassounian: Protocols to be Signed and Ratified with Possible Reservations

The president of Armenia spent just 24 hours in Los Angeles on Oct. 4, following brief visits to Paris and New York. Angry protesters greeted him in all three cities, accusing him of making unacceptable concessions in a pending agreement with Turkey.

In a large conference hall in the Beverly Hilton hotel, Beverly Hills, around 60 community leaders were invited to exchange views with the president on the Armenia-Turkey protocols. They had to first pass through metal-detectors to get into the hall.

Meanwhile, thousands of demonstrators had gathered outside the hotel waving placards, demanding Sarkisian’s resignation, and chanting slogans that could be heard all the way inside the 8th floor conference room. A small plane could be seen hovering overhead, flying a large banner with the inscription “No to Protocols.”

After the president’s opening remarks, I was called upon to address the issues at hand. In welcoming the president to Los Angeles, I wondered why he had decided to consult with Diaspora Armenians only after the negotiations with Turkey had been concluded and the protocols already initialed. What was the purpose of this “consulting tour,” when Armenia and Turkey were just days away from signing the protocols in Switzerland? If the visit was intended to appease the diaspora, why was it not done earlier, before most Armenians went into a frenzy, causing chaotic scenes in Paris where demonstrators were violently dragged off by the French police to allow the president to lay a wreath at the feet of the Gomidas statue? Tense confrontations do not lend themselves to calm and meaningful dialogue.

I also questioned the wisdom of trying to reconcile with Armenia’s long-standing enemies, at a time when Armenians have great difficulty reconciling with each other. Rather than forming an Armenian-Turkish commission, there is a greater need for an intra-Armenian task force to reach a common understanding of their political demands, and agree on a proper division of labor between the Armenian government and diasporan communities.

I expressed the opinion that these protocols were not only poorly negotiated, but also concluded under foreign pressure. Furthermore, contrary to the president’s protestations, the protocols include several Turkish preconditions, such as accepting Turkey’s territorial integrity and re-examining the genocide issue.

While the Armenian side has negotiated in good faith, Turkish leaders have kept repeating their rejectionist refrain—as seen in Turkish President Abduhllah Gul’s recent statement in Nakhichevan, that Turkey would not open its border with Armenia until the Karabagh conflict is settled. What was the point of these negotiations and concessions if Armenia’s border with Turkey will remain closed?

Even if the protocols are signed and ratified, and the border is opened, Armenia could still end up holding an empty bag should Turkey, under some future pretext, close it down again. I asked Sarkisian if he would be prepared to add a reservation to the protocols, stating that Armenia would nullify the agreement should Turkey close the border again.

I also expressed my agreement with the president’s concern—stated during an interview with the Armenian Reporter—that some of the provisions of the protocols were bound to make the pursuit of the recognition of the Armenian Genocide even more challenging. I asked him if it was wise to make the Armenian activists’ already-difficult task of confronting the powerful Turkish state even more difficult!

I concluded my remarks by urging the president not to rush into signing these flawed and detrimental protocols. Why attempt to resolve through a single document a decades-long problem between Armenia and Turkey? A one-line document simply calling for the establishment of diplomatic relations and the opening of the border would have sufficed.

I pointed out that the president’s acceptance of the protocols was forcing Armenians to pin their hopes on the possibility that Turkey itself would inadvertently end up safeguarding Armenia’s interests by refusing to ratify the agreement for its own reasons.

In response to my remarks, Sarkisian expressed his willingness to accept my suggestion to add a reservation to the protocols that would call for the repeal of the agreement should Turkey ever decide to close the border, after opening it.

In the course of the three-hour long meeting, during which very few of the 29 speakers supported the protocols, Sarkisian insisted that he would never accept the re-examination of the facts of the Armenian Genocide by the historical sub-commission referred to in the protocols.

He stated that the main task of the sub-commission would be to discuss the steps necessary for the removal of the consequences of the genocide. The president expected that the agreement would open new avenues to educate the Turkish public about the Armenian Genocide. He also categorically rejected the possibility of being pressured into making concessions on Artsakh (Karabagh).

Given Sarkisian’s refusal to accept the re-examination of the genocide and rejection of any concessions on Artsakh—two key Turkish demands—one wonders if members of the Turkish Parliament would ever agree to ratify these protocols and open the border with Armenia.

Sarkisian concluded the lengthy session by acknowledging that he himself has concerns about some aspects of the protocols that have not been fully assessed! He stated that the protocols could close the door on future demands from Turkey and may cause difficulties in resolving the Artsakh conflict. Similar concerns were also expressed by Arkady Ghoukassian, the former president of Artsakh, who accompanied Sarkisian.

Despite such misgivings, it was clear from Sarkisian’s overall remarks that he does not entertain any revisions of the protocols, and seems fully intent on seeing them signed and ratified, possibly after adding some reservations.


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 $917 million 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. Dear Sirs:
    It seems good that some agreement with Turkey would be a good attempt.  One does not have to rewrite history and in creating relations with Turkey could lead to benefits for each country.  The two neighboring countries can attempt to work together without sacrificing the integrity of the Armenian people and its history.
    Bryan Haserjian
    Los Angeles

  2. In disagree with Mr. Sasoonian’s conclusion. The som called protocals will not be ratified by Republic of Armenia. I am mazed that Mr. Sassonian failed to remind Mr. President that these protocals are anti-constitutional of republic of Armenia. The Declaration of Independence of Armenia which is foundation of the Constitution of the Republic Armenia calls for promting Armenian Genocide that took place in Ottoman Armenia by Ottoman Turk. The texts distinguishes Ottoman Armenia from Ottoman Turks which clearly means Western Armenia.

    To fight these protocols the short and effective route is the Constitution itself.
    We have to refer to the Constitution any time we have the chance to discuss these so called protocals.

  3. Given the recent remarks by the President of Armenia, it becomes evident that his trip to Europe, America and Lebanon were a last-minute plan for face-saving purposes. The Armenians in diaspora have the legitimate right to be consulted “before” any pre-commitment by the government of Armenia to sign a poorly drafted  protocol that spells disaster for all Armenians.
    Obviously, Turkey will not endorse a protocol that includes Armenian refusal to any concessions on the Armenian genocide and Artsakh. Mr. President: Don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater.

  4. This is outright outrageous..

    What nerve does Sarkisian have to go through this?  I am burning with hate and anger.. One thing he instilled in Armenians all over the world.. Not a great way to be remembered..

    I am utterly speechless.. just speechless and defenseless… Thank you Sarkisian and his gang of traitors… You completly finished what Turks started.. getting away with Armenia and its people, history, culture, and survival.


  5. In reply to Papken Hartunian, regarding the Constitutional Court of Armenia, wasn’t the President of the court, Gagik Harutiunian on tour with Sarkisian? What do you expect, the case would be if the issue went to the Constitutional Court? the “Heritage” party has made a motion, already… we know the outcome. Do you think Mr Gagik Harutiunian would say this is wrong? this is what happens when the executive body (governement) and judiciary go on tour, just like a circus, to entertain people… no one cares about the people my friend, it’s all about the money… they’ve taken whatever they could from Armenia, and now, “let’s open the borders, and make some more money”… and some of our diasporan boneless personas chew whatever he says… Quo vadis, Armenia???

  6. I think the protocols will divide the Armenians of the diaspora and those living in Armenia and that this may be recognized and perhaps intended/favored/predicted by Turkey and all its allies.  It is greatly important for diasporan Armenians to maintain their efforts for genocide recognition and like the Jews support their country at all costs.

  7. Like Israel, Armenia is surrounded by hostile muslim neighbors.  Like Israel, we have to decide whether it is in our best interests to maintain our neighbors as enemies or to work together to make peace once and for all.  Most muslims do not acknowledge the holocaust but we ask Israel to work with Palestinians and other muslim neighbors.  We have to do the same if we want to survive and avoid another genocide.  People are like mirrors, and our hatred of the turks goes back much farther than 1915 or 1895.  It goes back to the crusades when we assisted in the mass murder of muslims.  And during World War I, some Armenians sided with Russia against the Ottoman Empire in an effort to reclaim Armenia.  While it was not proper to brand all Armenians as having committed treason, and the genocide was clearly a crime against humanity of atrocious proportions, we may not have had independence but we were dominating Ottoman society and had many high positions.  You can lay low and survive, or you can be arrogant and take on a stronger enemy.  Read Sun Tzu’s The Art of War.  We took on a more populous enemy and lost big time.  Muslims are growing in population at an unbelievable pace.  Unless you are willing and able to wipe them all out, you have to be accepting of them.  Jews dominate because they work together.  Armenians individually are highly intelligent and sophisticated, but we almost never work together.  We constantly argue and that is why thoughout history we have been divided and conquered.  The Turks of today did not commit the atrocities of the Ottoman Empire 100 years ago.  Why should they live in constant antagonism and have to feel hatred toward themselves?  Must all Christians hate Muslims and must all Muslims hate Christians?  Science is showing more and more facts about the origin and evolution of our planet and solar system that were not available to the sheep herders who came up with these religions thousands of years ago, and yet to this day, we cling to archaic divisions of “people” and ethnic and religious culture.  If not for Judaism, there would have been no holocaust.  I’m not saying all religion is bad but most religions turn their backs on morality as soon as they confont a different point of view.  We need to “grow up” as a species and evolve to the next level where we begin to appreciate the fact that we are all one species on a planet and if an asteroid comes, we experience a solar flare, or there is a massive earthquake along an age old national border, or a country drops a bomb on its next door neighbor, everyone loses.  If you are not strong enough to defeat an enemy, befriend the enemy or build alliances.  We are not even allied with each other and until we do that, we will never be able to build allies with others.  Ethnic hatred and finger pointing is baseless.  Read about the year 1099.  It was a sad year for Christianity but it is rarely taught in Christian schools.  It made 1915 look like child’s play.  And we were the perpetrators.  At least “we” who claim to follow Christ.  The second coming has been predicted for over 2,000 years.  I, for one, will take a rain check.  As it turns out, the earth is round, we go around the sun, not the other way around, and that’s not hell beneath the earth’s crust.  It’s called lava, here let me spell it for you L-A-V-A.  And in about 10 million years, the sun will expand, engulf the earth and end all life as we know it.  That’s what we ought to be teaching in schools.  Unfortunately, too many of us are still operating with the mentality of Homo Erectus. 

  8. Harout Sassounian’s reporting and assessments are good.   There is one issue that I am not hearing, nor reading in discussions of this topic. 

    That is, the Turkish government closed the borders.  Now, it offers to open it and place conditions, symbolically bringing Armenia on its knees.  Sassounian writes, 

    “What was the point of these negotiations and concessions if Armenia’s border with Turkey will remain closed?
    “Even if the protocols are signed and ratified, and the border is opened, Armenia could still end up holding an empty bag should Turkey, under some future pretext, close it down again. I asked Sarkisian if he would be prepared to add a reservation to the protocols, stating that Armenia would nullify the agreement should Turkey close the border again.”

    With my respects to Harout Sassounian, I believe that this statement does not make sense and does not place Armenia in a good bargainig position.  I do not understand the logic.  It assumes that Armenia is begging for the border to open.  Is that so?

  9. To Matt
    Stop Smoking the weed dude!  Yes modern Turkey didn’t kill the Armenians yet today’s Turkey  denies the mass murder of 1.5 million Armenians and many still wish the job was complete. The Turks go out of their way to continue the legacy of the genocide.  Also try reading a real ottoman history book and understand that where the Turks went they killed, stole  and raped their subjects. Ask everyone that was enslaved under their rule. In fact all the others including the Arabs and Europeans struggled against the Turks to eventually free themselves, unfortunately the Armenian heartland was in Anatolia itself and so the Armenians, Pontiff Greeks and Assyrians, still under Turkish rule were liquidated not only to Turkify the area but to get the wealth and the lands as well. As far as I’m concerned modern day Turkey, the sons and daughters of genocide perpetrators, owe me an apology and money.

  10. I think it is very important not to put the two protocols in the same basket. The first one may possibly be a base for useful discussions, as long as the Artsakh question is not sold down the river (at least by the Armenians). The border closure is a pain for the Republic of Armenia in economic terms, and they (rather than us in the diaspora) have to live with the neighbours it has, so a sort of motus vivendi has to be reached.

    Where we have to be totally inflexible is in the matter of the second protocol, because the near-totality of the Diaspora is made up of heirs of the Genocide, and by even sitting down at a table for a tripartite “examination” of the fact sows the basis of doubt on its veracity. This has already been a
    problem through the shameful behaviour of the likes of the BBC and The Economist (and what to say about the negationist collaboration of Israel!), and we cannot accept it in any shape or form.

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