LONDON (RFE/RL)–U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has met with her counterparts from Armenia and Turkey to discuss an intensifying diplomatic dispute that has raised an additional obstacle to the normalization of Turkish-Armenian relations.
Clinton met with Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu on Wednesday and Armenia’s Edward Nalbandian the next day on the sidelines of an international conference held in London. She was due to hold more talks with Davutoglu late on Thursday.
The Armenian and Turkish ministers had a separate meeting there earlier in the day. An Armenian Foreign Ministry spokesman declined to give any details, telling RFE/RL only that the conversation was very short and impromptu.
The Turkish Hurriyet Daily News quoted an unnamed Turkish diplomat as saying that Davutoglu reiterated Ankara’s concerns about the Armenian Constitutional Court’s interpretation of the normalization “protocols” signed by the two governments in Switzerland last October. “The two sides had the chance to review their well-known positions. There is no change,” said the diplomat.
The two top diplomats already discussed the controversy in a phone call last week, with Davutoglu alleging that the Armenian court acted against the letter and the spirit of the protocols despite upholding their conformity with Armenia’s constitution. Nalbandian dismissed the Turkish claims as “nonsense” at a news conference on Friday.
The U.S. State Department likewise disagreed with Ankara’s stance. Assistant Secretary of State Philip Gordon said late last week that Washington regards the court ruling as a “positive step forward in the ratification process of the normalization protocols between Turkey and Armenia” that “does not appear to limit or qualify them in any way.”
“The court ruling is restrictive,” Davutoglu insisted as he spoke to Turkish journalists on his way to London on Wednesday. According to Hurriyet he also said the Turkish government will substantiate its claims in a legal document that will be sent to the U.S. and Swiss governments soon.
Ankara is specifically unhappy with the court’s assertion that the protocols place no obligations on Yerevan pertaining to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and do not commit it to stop seeking greater international recognition of the Armenian genocide. Turkish officials say this runs counter to a protocol clause envisaging the formation of a Turkish-Armenian inter-government “subcommission” that would look into the 1915 mass killings and deportations of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire.
The Armenian side insists that the would-be panel was never supposed to determine whether the massacres constituted genocide. It argues that the clause in question stipulates only that the “subcommission” shall engage in an “impartial scientific examination of historical documents and archives.”
In an interview with Turkish NTV television aired on Tuesday, Davutoglu said his government will not take further steps towards the protocols’ ratification by the Turkish parliament unless its concerns are addressed by Armenia and the mediating powers. “We expect clear explanations from Armenia regarding the Constitutional Court’s decision,” he said.
Armenian Justice Minister Gevorg Danielian made clear on Thursday that while the authorities in Yerevan may “provide clarifications” of the ruling they will take no steps contradicting any of its provisions. All of those provisions are equally binding for Armenia’s government and parliament, he said.
“If the other side comes up with a position contradicting this [court] decision in the process of bilateral relations, then our side must naturally refrain from those relations and act solely within the framework of Constitutional Court rulings,” added Danielian.