Friday, November 13, 2009

Turkey & Armenia: Don't Hold Your Breath

Over at Eurasianet, Marianna Grigoryan gives a good update on how the recently-signed (though yet-to-be ratified) protocols to renew diplomatic relations between Ankara and Yerevan are progressing in Armenia. The bottom line? Very little progress is being made in getting the protocols even close to being ratified. From her piece:
Armenia’s stormy debate over reconciliation with Turkey has died down in the last two weeks as Armenian politicians circle their wagons, size up their opponents and wait for the Turkish parliament’s own decision on ratification of the October 10 protocols to reestablish diplomatic ties between the two states.

Armenia has not yet taken the first step for ratifying the documents - a review by the country’s Constitutional Court to ensure compliance with constitutional law. A Constitutional Court spokesperson told the news service on November 9 that President Serzh Sargsyan has not yet submitted the protocols to the court for review. No reason was given for the delay.

One political scientist cautions that observers should not expect rapid, daily progress on reconciliation with Turkey. "This [current] temporary silence anticipates an intensive [development of] events," Alexander Iskandarian, director of Yerevan’s Caucasus Institute, commented to reporters on November 11.

One opposition member who supports reconciliation with Turkey believes that the prevailing political calm on the issue is linked to parties attempting to consolidate their positions on the documents.

"I don’t think we have silence now," commented Suren Surenyants, a senior member of the Republic Party. "At this stage, each party is trying to reinforce its position before the next stormy cycle, each country is trying to demonstrate its superiority. This is a process that will intensify soon."

Part of that process includes watching Turkey’s own decision on ratification. As in Armenia, Turkish opposition parties have expressed strong misgivings about the reconciliation deal.

"Now everybody in Armenia is waiting for the decision of the Turkish parliament," said Tatul Hakobian, an analyst at the Civilitas Foundation. "This already shows that Armenia has almost no [unilateral] influence on the [future development of] Armenian-Turkish relations. It is waiting for Turkey’s steps."
(You can read the full article here.)

The problem with "everybody in Armenia" waiting for the decision of the Turkish parliament -- which must also first ratify the protocols for them to take effect -- is that it also has made very little progress on the issue. The protocols have yet to be introduced to the parliament in Ankara, and it seems unlikely that the body, which is currently locked in a heated debate over the government's plans to deal with the Kurdish issue, will tackle the Armenia issue any time soon, particularly since there seems to be little movement on the Nagorno-Karabakh issue.

The October signing of the protocols in Zurich was certainly a historic event and the Turkish-Armenian reconciliation train has definitely left the station. But it seems that, for the time being, it's stuck on the tracks and making little progress, with domestic politics in both Turkey and Armenia making it difficult for a foreign policy breakthrough to be achieved.

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