BY ARA KHACHATOURIAN
President Serzh Sarkisian’s announcement Thursday declaring the Turkey-Armenia Protocols null and void is not cause for celebration, but rather yet another opportunity to assert that the entire process that began in June 2008 was categorically wrong and compromised the entire Armenian Nation, as well as the national security of Armenia.
While the narrative woven by Yerevan has been that Armenia initiated the dangerous process as a means to advance peace in the region, the fact of the matter is that the process began during the George W. Bush administration whose secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, sought to replace the failed Turkey-Armenia Reconciliation Commission with this abhorrent effort to neutralize the just demands of the Armenian people to attain international recognition of the Armenian Genocide and shield its long-time ally Turkey from any reparations claims from Armenia and Armenians.
In June of 2008, the then newly-elected Sarkisian kicked off what would later become known as “football (soccer) diplomacy) and later traveled to Ankara to begin this process. It was later revealed that secret negotiations, initiated by the U.S., had been taking place well in advance of Sarkisian’s trip to Ankara. After President Barack Obama took office, his secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, rabidly embraced this effort and stopped at nothing to advance the cause of Turkey-Armenia reconciliation, with no preconditions. However, one of the provisions of the Protocols was that a commission of historians would come together to assess the issue of the Armenian Genocide.
Sarkisian probably believed that the head-on engagement in this process would deflect (international) attention from his post-election obstacles, namely the voter unrest that resulted in the death of 10 people in Yerevan on March 1, 2008 (note the date of the Protocols’ nullification).
However, there was national consensus at the time that the Protocols were wrong and it didn’t take long for the masses in Armenia and the Diaspora to rise up and demand from the Armenian government to cease all efforts to advance this dangerous process. At one point, more than 60,000 people took to the streets of Yerevan to protest the government actions on this matter. In every community in the Diaspora, the president was confronted with angry demonstrators who asserted that the Protocols went counter to the national aspirations of the Armenian people.
The Armenian Revolutionary Federation took the lead in this opposition movement and even withdrew from the government coalition, with all of its regional entities advancing the same movement in Diaspora communities.
The Turkey-Armenia Protocols were especially deemed egregious by the youth, whose presence at the forefront of this effort signaled that the new generation of Armenians would not relent in the pursuit of justice and human rights when it came to the Armenian Genocide.
“I think that he [Sarkisian] must finally sober up and refuse to sign them [Protocols] just because of his own interests,” ARF Bureau Chairman Hrant Markarian in September 2009 told RFE/RL in an interview. “You [Sarkisian] must not cut the tree branch on which you are sitting.”
Markarian claimed during the 2009 interview, which was published weeks before the signing of the document in Zurich, that a deal with Turkey negotiated on the existing terms would be the last straw for a considerable part of Armenia’s population unhappy with the authorities. “The people will sooner or later hold him accountable, and the price would be heavy,” he said, adding: “I believe that he [Sarkisian] would not be able to carry on.”
“The so-called ‘Protocols’ provide for a clear surrender of Armenian national rights by recognizing the “inviolability of Turkish territory,” significant parts of which have a cloud over their lawful title. Included within this “territory” are large parts of modern Turkey that had been lawfully awarded to and recognized to be part of the Armenian Republic in 1920 and earlier. Much of that territory has been illegally taken from the Armenian nation through force, coercion and through the use of internationally condemned illegal and wrongful means,” said a statement issued by the ARF Western US Central Committee in September 2009.
The authorities in Yerevan flat out ignored the cross-section of Armenians both in Armenia and the Diaspora, but also pursued this with disregard for, specifically, the Diasporan communities, whose existence was the result of the Genocide.
There were ample opportunities to walk-back the Protocols, namely in April of 2010, when Sarkisian, citing Turkey’s continued preconditions, suspended the process, with the parliament shelving the issue indefinitely. Pledges to abort or withdraw from the process were intermittently made by Sarkisian, always at politically expedient times.
This “pledge to nullify the Protocols” has been used by Sarkisian and his administration in various international forums as recently as last week, when Nalbandian told the European Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee to anticipate Thursday’s action.
“Armenia played checkers. Turkey played chess,” said Aram Hamparian, the executive director of the Armenian National Committee of America on Thursday after Sarkisian’s announcement. The ANCA played a pivotal role in the Diaspora opposing the Protocols process warning of the negative impact of the document on Armenia and entire Armenian Cause.
“Yerevan pursued these reckless pro-Turkey accords over the common sense objections of the ANCA and nearly every civil society voice across the Armenian homeland and diaspora. We issued countless warnings, held endless meetings and even organized protests, setting forth clear evidence and compelling arguments against this one-sided deal. Turns out, we were right on every count. Lessons learned, the hard way,” added Hamparian
In September 2017, Sarkisian told the United Nations General Assembly that by spring of 2018 he would declare the Protocols null and void. Thursday’s announcement fulfilled a pledge to the U.N. But in reality, the U.N. announcement was nothing but a stump speech for his campaign to become Armenia’s next prime minister, who according to Armenia’s new constitution will be head of state.
The political circles doing the happy dance after Sarkisian’s announcement Thursday should sober up and realize that the president, who surely feels victorious, took the entire Armenian Nation down the rabbit hole and gambled the future of our homeland. Hence, there is nothing worth celebrating today.