Armenia protocols ‘left to dust’ on the shelves

Exactly two years ago today, landmark protocols aimed at normalizing Turkey-Armenia relations were signed in Zurich, Switzerland. The time that has passed between then and now, however, have proved among the toughest for diplomacy in the region, and academics on both sides agree that a chance has been missed.

Armenian Foreign Minister Edouard Nalbandia (2nd L) and Turkish Foreign Minister, Ahmet Davutoğlu, (2nd R) shake hands while signing landmark protocols. AP photo.

Armenian Foreign Minister Edouard Nalbandia (2nd L) and Turkish Foreign Minister, Ahmet Davutoğlu, (2nd R) shake hands while signing landmark protocols. AP photo.

According to Armenian scholar Yervand Bozoyan, the fault lies squarely on the Turkish side.

“The protocols are unlikely to come to the agenda anytime soon,” Bozoyan said in a recent interview. “For Turkey, the Karabakh issue is a precondition, but Armenia is for dialogue without such preconditions.”

The protocols were signed on Oct. 10, 2009 by Armenia’s Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian and his Turkish counterpart Ahmet Davutoğlu. Both parliaments, however, failed to ratify the accord. Alexander Isgandarian of the Caucasus Institute agreed with Bozoyan, criticizing Turkey for the 1993 move to close borders with Armenia. The failure of the protocol to pass through parliaments has also created disappointment on the Turkish side.

“At the time of the signing ceremony, I thought this was part of a pre-agreed plan,” said İlter Turan, an international relations academic from the Istanbul Bilgi University. “But it seems that either there was no such plan, or other steps of the plan failed to follow.”

“We’re back at square one,” said Hagop Çakıryan, an Armenian journalist.

“Ankara’s agenda is full of items more important that relations with Armenia,” Çakıryan said. “Turkey has set its gaze toward the Middle East, aiming to be a regional power. There are also the Kurdish and Cyprus issues and strained ties with Israel. In such a climate, Turkey won’t be interested in the protocols anymore.”

If Turkey wishes to become a leader in the Caucasus, it cannot do this “if it excludes Armenia,” according to Çakıryan.

Daily News columnist Semih İdiz was also pessimistic, saying that the protocols “are left to dust on the shelves.” However, he disagreed with the “shift of focus” perspective, pointing to the Azerbaijan factor as the real reason.

According to İdiz, what blocked the process was Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s May 2009 speech at the parliament in Baku, in which he promised there would be no progress regarding the protocols if the Nagorno-Karabakh issue remained unresolved.

“Thus, a solution requires a Karabakh progress by the Minsk Group,” İdiz said. “And such a progress does not seem possible [for now].”

Vercihan Ziflioğlu and Sevim Songün contributed to this report.

Sunday, October 9, 2011
ISTANBUL- Hürriyet Daily News