On Protocols, Authority and Resignations

By Ara Papian

A question has been raised a great deal lately, to which a clear answer has not been given. Why is the Armenian Revolutionary Federation demanding the resignation of the foreign minister, but does not demand the resignation of the president? Although I am not a member of the ARF, I shall try to answer this question, because it is bad form, in principle, to leave questions raised by society unanswered.

According to the current Constitution (Article 55, clause 7), the president of the Republic of Armenia shall “… execute the general guidance of the foreign policy …”. That is to say, as the leader, he has the prerogative of generally directing foreign policy, but not carrying it out. As a part of the executive branch, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has, in turn, the prerogative of actually implementing foreign policy. Moreover, the Foreign Ministry is bound to be lead by the directives of this “general guidance” and take corresponding steps only within the given directives. Officials of the Foreign Ministry do not have the right to work outside presidential directives and negotiate on other issues, much less take on additional liabilities in the name of the country.

What is our current situation? The president of the country has on many occasions stated explicitly in public the normalization of relations with Turkey without preconditions as a prime directive of foreign policy. The foreign minister has also publicly repeated the president’s position, emphasizing the main characteristic of the policy being “without preconditions”. What is more, both the president and the foreign minister have clarified more than once that normalization in the current stage will essentially have two directions: the establishment of diplomatic relations with Turkey, and the opening of the – so-called, as I like to put it – border between Armenia and Turkey.
There are no concerns on the first point. Naturally, we have expectations from Turkey, and therefore we must establish diplomatic relations so that we negotiate our expectations or equivalent reparations. There are some questions pertaining to the second point. However, there are no disputes really. We shall open the border and we shall see that our expectations are not coming through, and we shall be disappointed.

Now let us look over the current two protocols and see how exactly they correspond to the president’s directive without preconditions. I shall yet have the opportunity to discuss the said documents and to reveal the more than ten unrelated liabilities in place, point by point. Unrelated, because they do not have anything to do with establishing diplomatic relations and to open the so-called border.

For now, let me bring up only one point, the presence of which testifies as such to the dismissal of the policy directive and is enough to render the entire document useless. The fifth clause of the protocol on establishing diplomatic relations between the Republic of Armenia and the Republic of Turkey says the following, word-for-word: “Confirming the mutual recognition of the existing border between the two countries as defined by the relevant treaties of international law”.1
Putting aside in general the question of the relevance of such legal treaties, let me simply stress that the aforementioned clause is well beyond any precondition. This is a non-negotiable, sovereign duty of the Republic of Armenia. That is to say, the parties have based the establishment of diplomatic relations on “the mutual recognition of the existing border”.

Clearly, the negotiators have acted ultra vires, that is to say, it is evident that they have surpassed their own authority and ignored the president’s directive. In a word, the negotiators acted in an area which fell outside their legal authority.

How to salvage the situation? Armenia must not ratify the signed protocols, citing that they do not reflect the intent and essence of the negotiations as they were announced from the very beginning. The Republic of Armenia must reaffirm its willingness to establish diplomatic relations with the Republic of Turkey without preconditions and to open the crossing points at the frontier, signing brief and pointed documents which consists solely of those clauses.

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