Sassounian: Nine Actions Armenia Must Take Before Ratifying the Protocols

The very first step in attempting to “normalize” relations between Armenia and Turkey—signing the protocols in Zurich on Oct. 10—was nearly aborted when the foreign ministers of both countries objected to the statements each had prepared for delivery following the signing ceremony.

Since both parties had the right to review in advance each other’s closing statements, the Armenian foreign minister complained that the Turkish side planned to raise unacceptable issues on Nagorno-Karabagh (Artsakh) and the historical commission. For his part, the Turkish foreign minister objected to his Armenian counterpart’s attempt to assert that the establishment of relations between the two countries was not based on “any preconditions.”

After more than three hours of intense back and forth, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, and other high-ranking officials succeeded in pressuring the Armenian and Turkish foreign ministers into signing the protocols without making closing statements.

Despite the massive outpouring of Armenian sentiment, accusing Armenia’s leadership of making unacceptable concessions, foreign minister Edward Nalbandian went ahead and signed the protocols in Zurich.

The signed protocols are now to be submitted to the Armenian and Turkish Parliaments for ratification. Before this final step, however, the Armenian side should consider taking the following nine actions in order to minimize the damage the protocols would cause to Armenian interests:

1) A non-governmental organization or an opposition political party should file a lawsuit with Armenia’s Constitutional Court, challenging the constitutionality of the protocols. This initiative would be separate from the legal requirement that the Constitutional Court pronounce judgment on whether a particular international agreement is in line with Armenia’s Constitution.

2) Before taking up these protocols, the Armenian Parliament should wait and see if its Turkish counterpart will ratify them first.

3) If the Turkish Parliament fails to ratify the protocols “in a reasonable timeframe,” the Armenian government should declare them to be null and void.

4) The Armenian Parliament should not ratify the protocols, if the Turkish Parliament attaches any reservations or provisions at the time of ratification.

5) The Armenian government should withdraw the protocols from parliamentary consideration, if the Turkish Parliament links its ratification to unrelated issues, such as the Artsakh negotiations or the Armenian Genocide.

6) The Armenian Parliament should add a provision to the protocols, stating they would be considered null and void if after ratification Turkey does not open the border with Armenia within the stipulated 60-day timeframe, or if it closes the border after opening it. In fact, Sarkisian committed himself to adding such a provision, in response to a suggestion I made during his meeting with Armenian American leaders in Los Angeles on Oct. 4.

7) The Armenian Parliament, before ratifying the protocols, should pass a law making it illegal for any governmental entity or agency to participate in any effort that questions the truth of the Armenian Genocide. This law would counter declarations made by Turkish leaders and others that the historical sub-commission mentioned in the protocols would re-examine the facts of the Armenian Genocide.

8) The Armenian Parliament should make it illegal for any Armenian official to negotiate, sign, or approve any territorial concessions regarding Artsakh. This would shut the door firmly on repeated Turkish demands for Armenian concessions on Artsakh prior to the ratification of the protocols.

9) The Armenian Parliament should declare the Treaty of Kars, signed under duress by the Armenian Soviet Socialist Republic, to be null and void. Once the Treaty of Kars is annulled, the reference in the protocols to relevant international treaties defining the existing Armenian-Turkish border would no longer be valid and therefore, would not preclude future Armenian territorial demands from Turkey.

It is imperative that the Armenian authorities implement the above steps because merely providing verbal explanations in defense of the protocols will not eliminate their detrimental effects.

Since Armenia’s leaders are unwilling or unable to renegotiate and amend these protocols, due to the international pressure brought to bear on them—as seen during the Zurich spectacle—the least they should do is take actions that would limit the damage to Armenia’s national interests.


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. Es chem havatum vor hogheri harts arants krvi karogh e lutsver. Verjapes aid hogheri vra hima turker en aprum. Ur piti gnan nrank. Dra haamar aid hartse petk e darna erkrordakan. Chpetk e Haiastani ev Artskhi tntesakan zagatsume zohaberel anirakanali erazanknerin. Ailapes kkortsnenk erkusn el. Ete aid hartse chlini turkere aveli hesht kndunen genoside paste. Kaghakanutiune bard protsess e u petk che huis unenal vor voreve mi urish petutiun kogni mez aid hartsum. Ov el vor khostana kam kkhabi kam el kshahagortsi inchpes minchev hima. Isk menak menk ais hartse lutsel chenk karogh.

  2. The 4th and 6th items contradict with themselves. While Armenia doesn’t allow Turkey to add any provision to the protocols, itself should add a provision about opening the borders. How can Turkey accept this ?

  3. To Arman: “Chpetk e Haiastani ev Artskhi tntesakan zagatsume zohaberel anirakanali erazanknerin.” You have a point. But who gives you the right to pay for Haiastan ev Arstsakh economic development with other people’s rights, memory, and property (that’s us, the survivors’ heirs)? You have every right to qualify as “anirakanali erazank” my –most probably unreal– hopes, but you, or anyone else, have no right to wipe them out for your own “economic development.” It may be unreal, but it’s mine. You want economic development, you should negotiate giving away something that’s yours, not mine.

  4. Armenia needs to consider that Germany itself refused to sign a Treaty that would break East Germany away from Western Germany . . . because of this, Germany was able to be united when the wall came down.  Armenia must reject the Kars Treaty once and for all. 

  5. Mr. Sassounian — the Armenian parliament is not a real institution.
    Do you know what the last serious debate in parliament was centered around?  The price of land around Lake Sevan.  And this only happened because Hovik Abrahamyan, the speaker, is financially at odds with many members in the republican party, as he admitted during the debate: “Trust me, I have personal knowledge and a personal stake in this issue!”
    You expect a thoughtful debate moderated by people who address each other by their mafioso names?  “Mook” – for example, is the Speaker’s name, “Jchanj,” “Kris,” “Kyazh,” “Lefik Samo,” “Dodi Gago.”
    This is a waste of time.

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