American Report: Turkish relations with Armenia should be expanded
Just as the French Constitutional Council rejected the “denial law,” an exceptionally important 45,000-word report was issued in Washington on Turkish-Armenian relations.
Prepared by Columbia University’s Institute for the Study of Human Rights Director David L. Phillips and printed by Harvard University, the report - “Diplomatic History: The Turkey-Armenia Protocols” - was presented and discussed at special sessions of both the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Congress.
The report is based on exclusive interviews with those Turkish, American, Swiss and Armenian diplomats who personally contributed to the writing of the protocols. It searches for answers to both the questions of: “Why did the protocols fail?” and “What should be done now?”
Gül started, Erdoğan blocked
The process started with Turkish President Abdullah Gül’s participation at the football match held between the national teams of Turkey and Armenia in Yerevan on Sept. 6, 2008. Seven meetings had been held since May 21, 2008 with the mediation of Switzerland, and drafts were signed on Feb. 7, 2009. But the process failed after Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan’s suspension of the protocols on April 22, 2011. The following assessments have been made:
- Presidents Gül and Sargsyan are to be applauded as heroes of the process. It is stated that they demonstrated statesmanship, vision and huge courage.
- On the contrary, on the topic of causing the failure of the protocols, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is held responsible and criticized. Critics draw attention to the fact that in the speech he delivered at the Azerbaijani Parliament on May 13, 2009, he stipulated that a pre-condition of the recovery of Turkish-Armenian relations was the solving of the Nagorno-Karabakh issue. This was not in the protocols, so it stopped the process.
Aliyev did not take it seriously
- The person criticized most in the report is Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev. It is stated that he did not take the protocol talks seriously, and when it was officially announced he gave an exaggerated reaction. As well as threatening to stop the sale of natural gas to Turkey, he also raised the gas price to a great extent. He also brought the “South Stream” onto the agenda, in order to obstruct the Turkey-backed Nabucco Project.
- Armenia’s mistakes are also listed in the report. It is suggested that the announcement of the protocols just two days before the anniversary of the “genocide” provoked all Armenian nationalists. No information was provided to the public and no transparency was shown.
- The report also criticized the Obama administration for not being able to manage the developments properly, saying that the U.S. embassies in Ankara and Yerevan were not able to establish a satisfactory dialogue.
What should be done now?
The report states that the protocols cannot be revived as they are, but some measures that are present in the protocols can be activated to moderate the relationship:
- Flights between Van and Yerevan should be opened.
- The Ani Bridge should be repaired and tourist buses from Armenia should be allowed to travel there.
- Electricity sales should be allowed and fiber optic cables should be extended to Yerevan’s Industry Free Zone.
- Joint commissions should be formed to determine the method of research into international archives, and the selection of historic monuments to be repaired.
- Places should be allocated in Yerevan’s Genocide Museum for those Turks who helped Armenians in 1915.
This report is not binding. Its content will be evaluated in the U.S. Department of State’s decisions and in debates in the U.S. Congress. Some of the proposals may be transformed into policies. These proposals could also light the way to the steps Ankara may want to take, as the 100th anniversary in 2015 approaches.