YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–Turkey is extremely unlikely to ratify its fence-mending protocols with Armenia at this juncture, a senior Turkish lawmaker and deputy chairman of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) said on Thursday.
In an interview with RFE/RL’s Armenian service in Yerevan, Suat Kiniklioglu made clear that Ankara continues to make the normalization of Turkish-Armenian relations conditional on a Karabakh settlement. He said the passage of an Armenian genocide resolution by a U.S. congressional committee has rendered Turkish ratification of the protocols even “more difficult.”
“[Ratification] is very difficult right now,” Kiniklioglu said, speaking on the sidelines of an international seminar organized in the Armenian capital by the NATO Parliamentary Assembly. “It’s almost impossible. Especially after [the progress of the House Resolution] 252, it’s almost impossible.”
Turkey has strongly condemned the draft resolution approved by the Foreign Affairs Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives on March 4. It calls on President Barack Obama to “accurately characterize the systematic and deliberate annihilation of 1,500,000 Armenians as genocide.”
Kiniklioglu headed one of the two Turkish parliamentary delegations that traveled to Washington last week to lobby against the bill’s passage. They were present at the committee debate and vote on the measure along with fellow parliamentarians from Armenia.
“Neither the Turkish parliament nor any other parliament should be judging on other peoples’ history,” Kiniklioglu told RFE/RL. “We continue to propose the history commission that was part of the protocols, and I think that’s the best way to go about. Turkish-Armenian relations do not need the American Congress to be approved or to be condoned. I think Turks and Armenians are mature enough to resolve their problems on a bilateral level.”
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu has publicly warned Washington against exploiting the genocide bill to pressure Ankara to validate the U.S.-brokered agreements envisaging diplomatic relations between Armenia and Turkey and the opening of their border. U.S. officials have repeatedly called for a speedy and unconditional ratification of the protocols.
Kiniklioglu indicated that the Turkish government, which has a clear majority in parliament, persists in linking the ratification with an Armenian-Azerbaijani agreement on Karabakh. “In our view, there is a connection [with Karabakh,]” he said. “You can not normalize [relations] with a country when there is an abnormal situation going on right next door to you.”
“All sides, especially the American side, the Minsk Group, are working on the Karabakh issue,” said the lawmaker. “I hope something positive will come out of it because as soon as something positive comes out, I think we will push the protocols through the parliament.”
Meeting with Davutoglu in Kiev late last month, President Serzh Sarkisian threatened to walk away from the deal if the Turks fail to honor it “within the shortest period of time.” U.S. and European Union officials have likewise said it should be ratified within a “reasonable” timeframe.
“I think eventually it will happen, but we should not put artificial deadlines on the process and should continue in a determined fashion towards finalizing the reconciliation process,” countered Kiniklioglu.
“I am on the optimistic side,” he said. “One year ago or two years ago, there were no protocols whatsoever. Right now we have two documents that outline in detail how the normalization should take place. I think it’s still a success.”
“True, they are still awaiting ratification by the Turkish and Armenian parliaments,” added the AKP vice-chairman for foreign relations. “But I think if we show enough patience — and hopefully there will be some movement on Karabakh, we don’t know — I’m confident that normalization will eventually take place.”
Kiniklioglu went on to describe the Armenians and the Turks as “very similar people” who can put an end to their long history of mutual hostility. “This is my fourth visit to Armenia,” he said. “I have lots of friends here and I see more and more commonalities and similarities between us.”