Monday, May 3, 2010

Protocols on the Rocks, Cont.

I didn't get a chance to post this earlier, but I have a piece up on the (redesigned!) Eurasianet website that looks at the impact Turkey's domestic politics are having on the troubled Turkish-Armenian reconciliation process. From the piece:
Publicly, Turkish officials express their continued support for a rapprochement process with Armenia, despite Yerevan having recently suspended the ratification process for peace protocols signed with Ankara last October. But observers say that political considerations are making it very difficult for Turkey to move forward on the issue.

"Unfortunately, everything has been frozen," says Noyan Soyak, the Istanbul-based Vice-Chairman of the Turkish-Armenian Business Development Council.

"There isn’t an agreement now on even basic points. We don’t see any minimum agreement to move forward, which is unfortunate, because we believed that this?. was a unique period," Soyak continued. "It was a very important chance that was given to both countries by the international community, but both countries couldn’t use the chance to solve the problems, or even talk about the problems...."

....Turkish officials say that from their perspective, the protocols are still alive. "The protocols are waiting in my drawer to be overseen by the committee. They are not frozen," says Murat Mercan, a member of the governing Justice and Development Party (AKP) and chairman of the Turkish parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee.

Speaking before parliament in late April, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu insisted that Turkey remains committed to improving its relations with Armenia.

"We can opt for preserving the status quo and we can live happily and comfortably for a while as a result. But we will end up leaving a troubled Caucasus to our grandchildren," Davutoglu said. "The status quo in the Caucasus is not in the interests of Turkey or Azerbaijan or Armenia or Russia, but so far no brave step has been taken to change it. Now, what we want is to change it."

"Our parliaments will ratify the protocols when political conditions are ripe," he added.

But Cengiz Aktar, director of the European Studies Department at Istanbul’s Bahcesehir University says he believes there will be little progress on the Armenian issue until after the next Turkish general elections, which are scheduled for 2011. "The parliamentary opposition is dead set against these protocols and they want the protocols to be withdrawn from where they are in the [foreign affairs] commission," Aktar says. "The government cannot take the risk of another battlefront with the opposition, in addition to the other things they have going on. That is the position."
You can read the full piece here.

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