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Ömer Engin LÜTEM, Retired Ambassador
23 January 2008 - ERAREN
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!âJĞ="justify">Leyla Tav?ano?lu’s interview with Armenia’s deputy Foreign Minister Arman Kirakosian was published on the 20th of January in the Turkish newspaper Cumhuriyet under the heading “No Preconditions Attached” (“Hiçbir Önko?ulumuz Yok”).

During this time last year, Kirakosian, having come to Istanbul to attend Hrant Dink’s funeral service, expressed that his country was prepared to establish unconditional diplomatic relations with Turkey. Although his words gave voice to Armenia’s widely known and longstanding position, they made the headlines of various newspapers as if they expressed a policy change on the part of Armenia. To rectify this error, on the 26th of January last year, we posted a comment in this daily bulletin under the heading “The Proposal of Establishing Diplomatic Relations with Armenia Devoid of Any Preconditions.”  Although this commentary retains its validity even today, it will be worthwhile and in place to address this issue once again, as Kirakosian reiterated his “unconditional diplomatic relations” proposal. 

In the first instance it will be appropriate to delineate the outstanding problems between Turkey and Armenia.

The first problem relates to the mutual recognition of each others territorial integrity (or inviolability of borders). Without such recognition, it is not reasonable for Turkey and Armenia to establish normal relations. The border between these two countries was established by the 1921 Treaty of Kars, which was signed by Armenia and remains in force as of this day. However, the Armenian Government has refrained from signing a document denoting that both countries recognize each others territorial integrity.  Turkey has viewed as unsatisfactory the occasional verbal pronouncements by Armenian authorities to the end that the Kars Treaty is in force.  One can surmise that the essential reason behind Armenia’s reluctance to officially recognize Turkey’s territorial integrity rests in her desire for Eastern Anatolia to be pegged as Western Armenia, as is so done in Article 11 of The Armenian Declaration of Independence (which is an integral part of the Armenian Constitution). It shouldn’t be too difficult to speculate that an agreement to be signed pertaining to the mutual recognition of each others territorial integrity, would be set forth as violating the Armenian Constitution by ultra nationalist Armenian circles.

The second problem relates to the genocide allegations. Article 11 of  Armenia’s  Declaration of Independence refers to “achieving international recognition of the [so-called] 1915 Genocide” as a task the Republic of Armenia “stands in support of.” It is known that the Armenian Government, although not to the extent of the Armenian Diaspora, is also exerting efforts towards the recognition of this genocide claim. To cite a recent example, Foreign Minister Oskanian sent a letter to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi calling for the adoption of draft Resolution 106 pertaining to the Armenian genocide allegations. Nonetheless, Kirakosian speaks with an air that seems oblivious to such activities and alleges that Armenia does not retain the clout to pressurize the Diaspora Armenians.

The third problem pertains to Karabagh. As is known, Armenian forces occupied not only Karabagh (which is legally a part of Azerbaijan) but also 7 Azeri provinces surrounding this region. As a result, approximately one million Azeri’s had to abandon their homeland and flee to Azerbaijan. Sharing strong historical, ethnic, and cultural ties, Turkey has supported Azerbaijan in this conflict. Furthermore, to end the Armenian occupation of Azeri territories, in 1993 Turkey closed its border with Armenia. Although Kirakosian claims that Turkey should not take sides on this matter as she is a member of the OECD, this argument lacks any legal ground.   

If the three problems mentioned above were to be brought to a solution, Turkey would be ready and willing to establish normalized relations with Armenia. However, for many years Armenia has insisted on the establishment of relations devoid of any pre-conditions. This means that Armenia plans to continue to not recognize Turkey’s territorial integrity, continue to put forth genocide allegations, and keep the lands they occupied in Karabagh and the surrounding Azeri territories. In short Armenia aims to take all without conceding anything. To this end, the Armenian “without pre-conditions” formula is used to leave a positive impression on those who are ill-informed on the subject matter.

The Armenian approach which has continued for years has not only precluded the settlement of its disputes with Turkey and Azerbaijan but has also hindered its inclusion in the ventures for cooperation between the nations of the Southern Caucasus. With this in mind, it would be in place to conclude that Armenia’s interests lay in the new government (which shall be formed as a result of the upcoming presidential elections) to pursue a realistic policy altering the present state of affairs vis-a-vis Turkey.

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