WASHINGTON — On August 31, the foreign ministries of Armenia, Turkey and Switzerland announced protocols to be signed within six weeks to establish diplomatic relations between the Republic of Armenia and the Republic of Turkey and to open the border.
This announcement is consistent with the US position that normalization of relations between Armenia and Turkey proceed without preconditions. Armenian authorities have also made it clear that no preconditions means just that – no linkage to progress on the Nagorno Karabagh peace talks and no conditions on affirmation of the Armenian Genocide, or debating whether a genocide occurred through a commission-style process. The incontestable fact of the Armenian Genocide is internationally recognized, and Turks and Armenians have previously commissioned in 2003 an independent analysis through the International Center for Transitional Justice (ICTJ), which concluded that the events of 1915 constituted genocide.
The Armenian Assembly supports normalization of relations between Armenia and Turkey without preconditions. The United States has spoken clearly about the need for Turkey to lift its blockade and establish diplomatic relations with Armenia. Turkey’s lifting of its blockade against Armenia and opening the border is not only long overdue but obligated under international treaties. For this long-awaited effort to succeed, it is incumbent that the United States require Turkey to adhere to its commitments with respect to Armenia.
While the August 31st announcement represents an important step, experience has shown that reconciliation between Armenia and Turkey requires Turkey to come to terms with its past.
President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have all spoken eloquently on the need to recognize the Armenian Genocide. We could not agree more and urge President Obama and the US Congress to unequivocally affirm the Armenian Genocide. In so doing, the United States will honor a proud chapter in US history in helping to save the survivors of the first genocide of the twentieth century.
The Armenian Assembly views as encouraging the commitments made by the government of Turkey to normalize relations with Armenia without preconditions. However, we recall Turkey’s ample track record of unfulfilled promises. As such, many remain skeptical as prior governments of Armenia had also offered to normalize relations with Turkey without preconditions only to be rebuffed.
Moreover, it is of particular concern that on the same day as the joint statement released by the Armenian and Turkish foreign ministries regarding the start of consultations to establish diplomatic relations that Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu sent mixed signals. Foreign Minister Davutoglu not only indicated that the opening of the border would be “a long process,” but also stated that Turkey would guard Azerbaijan’s interests.
These pronouncements by Turkey’s Foreign Minister not only breach the spirit of framework just announced, but also directly contradict U.S. policy “that normalization should take place without preconditions and within a reasonable timeframe.”
The U.S. government has urged “Armenia and Turkey to proceed expeditiously, according to the agreed framework…” The protocols set specific time limits and the international community expects Turkey to fulfill its commitments through measurable results and in good faith to normalize relations with the Republic of Armenia. The protocols also call for consultations and parliamentary debate, which we expect, will be vigorous and emotional, while also conducted with respect and dignity.