Sassounian: Turkish Officials Admit to Playing Games with Protocols

With each passing day, the games Turkish officials have been playing with the protocols are becoming more obvious and ridiculous.

Throughout the long months of negotiations, I repeatedly warned that Turkish officials were not sincere in their announced intention of opening the border with Armenia and establishing diplomatic relations. By acting as if they were seeking reconciliation with Armenia, Turkish leaders simply wanted to prevent further acknowledgment of the Armenian Genocide by third countries, extract maximum concessions from Armenia on Artsakh (Karabagh), and block future territorial demands from Turkey.

Turkey first dragged out the negotiations until right before April 24 to preclude President Obama from keeping his promise on recognizing the Armenian Genocide. The protocols were finally signed on Oct. 10, to ensure that Armenian President Sarkisian went to Turkey to attend the soccer match between the national teams of the two countries.

Meanwhile, Turkey’s leaders repeatedly announced that they would not open the border and their parliament would not ratify the protocols until Armenia returned Artsakh to Azerbaijan—even though there was no such requirement in the signed documents. More than a month has now passed since the signing of the protocols in Zurich, but there are no signs that the Turkish Parliament will ratify them anytime soon.

Just before signing the protocols, Turkish President Abdullah Gul and Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu traveled to Azerbaijan to pledge once again that they had no intention of opening the border with Armenia until Artsakh was returned to Azerbaijan.

As if these outrageous preconditions were not sufficient to shake Armenians’ confidence in the protocols, Turkish officials made no attempt to hide their deceptive designs.

The Oct. 5 issue of the Turkish newspaper Hurriyet quoted Foreign Ministry officials in Ankara as stating: “The formation of a joint history commission and re-opening the border are included in the documents. However, they can be put into effect only after a solution is found to the Karabagh issue. Without a solution to the Karabagh conflict, these protocols cannot be transferred to parliament. Even then, parliament would not adopt it. So, relax.”

To convince the Azerbaijanis that Turkey had no plans to ratify the protocols, Turkish Foreign Ministry officials boasted about their success in deceiving Europeans on another agreement: “Turkey had to sign a protocol with the European Union on the Cyprus issue. What happened? Did Turkey open its seaports and airports to Cypriot vessels and airplanes, after four years?”

We now have solid evidence that these Turkish officials were not making an idle boast when they indicated that signing an agreement means nothing to them. In the Oct. 25 issue of Today’s Zaman, commentator Ercan Yavuz cited dozens of examples of agreements signed—but not ratified—by Turkey after the passage of many years! At present, there are 146 agreements with 95 countries, including Argentina, Azerbaijan, Libya, Slovenia, Sweden, and Syria, awaiting the approval of the parliament’s Foreign Affairs Commission. The oldest—an agreement signed 26 years ago between Iraq and Turkey—is still pending ratification by the Turkish Parliament. Many other important agreements have been signed since 2004, but still not ratified!

Given the Turkish record of not taking seriously commitments made on behalf of their country, it should not come as a surprise to anyone that the Turkish Parliament will not ratify the Armenia-Turkey protocols anytime soon. Of course, by not ratifying the protocols, Turkey would be breaking its written pledge of Aug. 31 to ratify the Protocols in a “timely” manner.

Interestingly, Armenian Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian, in a recent interview with Reuters, asked: “Why sign the protocols if they are not going to be ratified?” The answer is obvious: The Turkish government is interested in creating a positive image for itself in front of the international community by appearing to want “good neighborly relations” with Armenia, without actually taking any concrete steps to do so.

Armenia’s officials are sadly mistaken if they believe that Turkey will come under intense international pressure should it not ratify the protocols. Time and again, Turkey has proven its immunity from pressures applied by other countries, including the United States, as was the case on the eve of the Iraq war when Turkey refused to allow U.S. troops to cross its borders to enter Iraq.

If pressured from the outside, Turkish leaders will simply blame Armenia, by pointing out that it has not made any concessions on Artsakh, thereby making it impossible for the Turkish Parliament to ratify the protocols.

Armenian officials have repeatedly stated that the Artsakh negotiations are unrelated to the protocols and that the Armenian Parliament would not ratify the protocols before Turkey, adding that they would scrap the agreement if Turkey failed to act in a “timely” manner.

It remains to be seen whether Armenia will keep its pledge of not making any territorial concessions on Artsakh; and should Turkey refuse to ratify the protocols after the lapse of several months, will Armenia’s leaders have the courage to declare the signed protocols null and void?

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. Both Turish and Armenian sides are playing a game. Everybody knows that the name of that game is football for open politics. Though, I’d rather call that game pocket billiards.

  2. I am taken aback by Nalbandian’s naivety in questioning Turkey’s intent to sign the protocols but not ratify them. It’s a very revealing question that underscores his inexperience in understanding the basics of tactful diplomacy.
    FM should be well versed in understanding these signals BEFORE even being considered for office.

  3. Yergou titegh teghin Vosgi….Chem Havadar Turkin Khoskin.

    Didn’t Karnig Sarkissian Teach us anything thru his song???

    Hell with Turkey we did without them for 95 years, and we can do without their MERCY for another 95 years !!

  4. AMEN TO THAT Varoujan…

    To end all this mysery and nightmare.. i say Armenia should declare these protocols NULL AND VOID .. stand up govt officials and put your foot down for once.. Our government is sleeping in donkey’s ears.. either go forward or just stop everything on its track and retrieve from these useless protocols.. We can see that nothing is happening and will not happen until Turkey gets what they want.. so lets do the right thing.. kill the goose right now…

    Ay Ay Ay.. Vonts norits Turqeri dzerqeri mech unganq??? Vonts eli?

  5. The African-Americans suffered for many years. They had Martin Luther King. We need a Martin Luther King and a million man march on Washington. We need our too complacent Armenian Americans to gather up together and take a page or two from the African Americans in this country; adopt the attitude that “we shall overcome”; make it painful for our elected officials to continue to deny the Genocide; make it more painful for Turkey and Azerbaijan by getting every Armenian American to get wholly involve from every aspect. Who will be our leader. Our Martin Luther King. Step forward now. We need you more than ever NOW!

  6. The lack of progress with the protocols (i.e. likely delays with ratification) was predictable. However, I think that signing the protocols was a necessary step. Further delays with ratification will make Turkey’s bluff more obvious. Turkophiles will not any more be able to claim that the recognition of the genocide would undermine reconciliation efforts if Turkey failed to promptly ratify the very protocols that establish the basis for such reconciliation.

    The issue is if Armenia and Diaspora would be able to fully use this situation to either facilitate the opening of the border or exposing Turkey’s bluff. This should be done quickly, relentlessly and effectively.

  7. To ED:
    Turkey will not suffer by not ratifying the protocols even if Armenia does.  Turkey gets away with everything – with Cyprus, human rights violations, mistreatment of Kurds, not opening its ports to Cypriot ships as it promised the EU few years ago, closing the border with Armenia (since 1993), repressing Christian rights, and much much more.

    Whether  by U.S., U.K. and /or others.Even by republic  of Turkey.Not only  the question of reparations-come  up almost immediately after  that,but what  is worst of all for the Turkish diplomatic as well as their  allies “circles”  almost a century old-lie will be dis-covered  for the world  public ,thus rendering them an awfull  blow.They will  loose all prestige, nay respect and much needed confidence  , so far lodged  in them .Ruling  a world  that unjustly….
    For the world  does  in indeed  owe  JUSTICE  to Armenians…
    Hama Haiagagani SIRO,

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