Court OKs Turkey Protocols

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By Anush Martirosian, Ruzanna Stepanian

YEREVAN (RFE/RL) — The Constitutional Court upheld on Tuesday the legality of Armenia’s normalization agreements with Turkey amid continuing protests staged by nationalist groups opposed to the deal.

The widely anticipated verdict paved the way for the agreements’ ratification by parliament. The National Assembly is not expected, however, to start debating the two “protocols” before their endorsement by Turkey’s parliament.

The Constitutional Court handed down the ruling several hours after it started examining their conformity with the Armenian constitution. The session was open to the media for only four minutes.

The court decided that the examination will follow a “written procedure” that does not involve public hearings and verbal questioning of government officials and experts. The court chairman, Gagik Harutiunian, announced that the panel of nine judges will only consider written statements submitted by the Armenian Foreign Ministry and other interested parties.

“This is an issue which has an exceptional significance,” he said. “All those written documents that have been submitted to the Constitutional Court are available in the deliberations room and the members of the court can take them into account.”

Harutiunian added that they would also look into a nine-page petition from the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun) and other vocal opponents of the Turkish-Armenian protocols. “I am convinced that the members of the court will also familiarize themselves with it during the examination to clarify their legal positions,” he said.

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Dashnaktsutyun leaders handed the document as more than a thousand of its supporters marched to the court building in Yerevan on Monday. They demanded that the Constitutional Court declare the protocols at least “partly unconstitutional.”

Several dozen demonstrators gathered outside the court building on Tuesday to keep up the pressure on Armenia’s highest judicial body. Some of them were ethnic Armenians from the United States and other countries with sizable Armenian communities.

Vardges Hagopian, an elderly resident of New York, was particularly unhappy with a protocol clause that commits Armenia’s to recognizing its existing border with Turkey and presumably precludes future Armenian territorial claims to its big neighbor, which are favored by Dashnaktsutyun. “I can’t forget Western Armenia,” he said, referring to parts of eastern Turkey that were populated by many Armenians until 1915.

“We would lose our lands,” said Hagopian. “We just couldn’t have bigger losses. Shouldn’t our grandchildren grow up in their ancestral lands?”