YEREVAN (Regnum)–The Baku-Tbilisi-Kars Railroad, which will connect Turkey, Georgia and Azerbaijan and isolate Armenia–is illegal in the context of international law, former Armenian Ambassador to Canada Ara Papyan said during a seminar in Yerevan on Tuesday.
Turkey, Azerbaijan and Georgia have launched a railway project between the three countries, building on links forged by gas and oil pipelines. At a railway station in the eastern Turkish border town of Kars (a historic Armenian town) last week, the presidents of the three countries held a ground-breaking ceremony for the 290 million lira ($241.06 million) Turkish section of the railway, which circumvents Armenia. The three are linked by the BP-led Baku-Ceyhan oil pipeline and the Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum gas line but trade links between Turkey and the Caucasus region are limited.
Both pipelines traverse historic Armenian territory and earn Turkey considerable shares in transit fees. The railroad will similarly pass through occupied Armenian territory.
According to papyan, who is the head of the Modus Vivendi Center for Public Research, The Republic of Armenia, as the legal successor to the first Armenian Republic, can challenge the legality of the projects, as they traverse territory legally awarded to Armenia by the Treaty of Sevres in 1920.
He explained that US President Woodrow Wilson’s arbitration of Armenia’s borders after World War I were adopted by the Treaty of Sevres and continue to remain in effect.
"The true frontiers between Armenia and Turkey have been and remain to be the borders determined by Woodrow Wilson," according to him.
Based on Wilson’s decision, which has been notarized by the official state seal of the United States, Armenia’s jurisdiction spreads over the provinces of Van, Bitlis, Erzrum and Trapizon–all in all 103,599 square kilometers. This decision, echoed by the Treaty of Sevres, is still valid and has the power of law, mandatory for execution by the said country, Papyan noted.
After the Sovetization of Armenia–until 1924–the texts and maps of the League of Nations continued to show the eastern border of Turkey in line with Wilson’s decision, he explained.
Furthermore, Turkey and the United States currently have no legal document in which the United States recognizes the Turkish borders, Papyan explained.
"Diplomatic relations between the two countries [the US and Turkey] does not mean that the countries mutually recognize [each others] borders. Even when becoming a UN member, a country is only recognized as a legal subject, but not in the framework of its borders", explained Papyan.
According to him, there is no other legal document setting the borders between the two countries, therefore the Sevres Treaty is technically still in force and will remain in force until Armenia’signs new treaties with Turkey regarding their borders.
As a result, the Treaty of Kars signed in 1921, does not have the power of international law, as it was signed between Kemalist Turkey and the Soviet Republic of Armenia, which was an occupied country not subject to international law.
"Armenian still has a legal international right to a part of the territories of eastern Turkey," he said. "Armenia deman’s from Turkey not the lands, but recognition of its violation of international law and the arbitration of a third country on the matter."
The former ambassador said Armenia could still claim its right for these territories, which were to be transferred to it in line with the Sevres treaty in the court.
He explained that the construction of the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline and Baku-Tbilisi-Kars Railroad is illegal without Armenia’s participation, adding that Armenia has the right to demand transit fees for the sections of the railroad and pipeline that traverse its territories currently occupied by Turkey.
The Armenian authorities should insist on the demilitarization of Armenia’s territories under Turkish occupation, Papyan remarked.
"The vitally important issue of the national security of Armenia will thus be settled," he added.