PRAGUE (Combined Sources)–Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian late on Thursday insisted that preconditions in negotiations between Armenia and Turkey are “simply out of the question” after what he called “useful” talks with his Turkish counterpart President Abdullah Gul in Prague.
The two leaders met on the fringes of a European Union summit in the Czech capital for a third time in eight months. The meeting came two weeks after Ankara and Yerevan announced that they have “identified a roadmap” for establishing diplomatic relations and reopening the Turkish-Armenian border.
Sarkisian told journalists after the talks that Armenia and Turkey remain committed to normalizing bilateral relations soon. “We agreed to honor our agreements,” he said, adding that the two sides will “move towards normalizing Turkish-Armenian relations without preconditions and within reasonable time frames.”
But Sarkisian has already accepted at least some of the Turkish preconditions by discussing the Karabakh conflict with the Turks and agreeing to the creation of a Turkish-Armenian commission of historians. The commission would reportedly focus on the Armenian Genocide–a Turkish ploy designed to keep more countries of the world, notably the United States, from officially recognizing the crime against humanity.
Sarkisian’s conciliatory policy toward Turkey has been met with harsh criticism by Armenians—both in the Diaspora and Armenia–weary of the political and economic consequences that may follow if relations are normalized based on Turkey’s demands on Armenia.
The Armenian Revolutionary Federation strongly condemned the April 22 roadmap agreement and left the governing coalition, citing “insurmountable, fundamental disagreements” over the government’s approach toward normalizing relations with Turkey.
The negotiations process has seen Yerevan make major concessions to Ankara, according to the ARF, which has repeatedly warned that Turkey is exploiting the process to become an actor in the Nagorno-Karabakh peace talks and to deter the United States from officially recognizing the Armenian Genocide.
It, however, still remains unclear when the Armenian and Turkish governments plan to establish diplomatic relations and reopen the border. Neither government has officially disclosed the framework yet, keeping the lid tight on the entire negotiation process.
What is clear, according to the former foreign minister of Armenia, Vartan Oskanian, is that “both the issue of the joint commission and diplomatic relations are on the Turkish-Armenian negotiation agenda, and agreement in principle has been reached on these issues.”
“Today, Turkish diplomacy has succeeded in formulating its blunt preconditions in such a way as to make them palatable to the international community. The precondition of abandoning genocide recognition has assumed the form of an offer to set up a joint commission of historians. The territorial issues have taken the form of reciprocal recognition of borders through establishment of diplomatic relations,” Armenia’s longtime chief diplomat said in an op-ed, titled “Time to Take Stock,” published earlier this week in the Armenian media.
Gul, not surprisingly, seemed satisfied with his discussions with Sarkisian obut did not comment on possible dates for border opening.
He said the two leaders also discussed regional security issues, stressing the importance of both the Turkish-Armenian dialogue and the Nagorno-Karabakh peace process. “I think that improved relations in the Caucasus will stem from everyone’s interests,” the Turkish president told reporters.
Gul cited in that regard Sarkisian’s meeting earlier in the day with Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev which international mediators said marked further progress towards a Karabakh settlement. He did not specify whether such a settlement is a necessary condition for the normalization of Turkish-Armenian ties.
But Turkey’s Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, as well as Turkey’s powerful military and National Security Council have all repeatedly and forcefully stated in recent weeks that Ankara will not reopen the Armenian border as long as the Karabakh dispute remains unresolved.
“Today, it is obvious that Armenia has been involved in a process that it no longer controls and on which it has no leverage,” Oskanian said, echoing longtime concerns put forth by the ARF. “By publicly announcing the existence of the Roadmap without any indication about its content, Armenia has ended its role in the negotiations, and left the process, its interpretation, and its future evolution to the Turks.”