Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at GMAIL.COM
Fri Feb 26 17:06:51 UTC 2010

Gayane Abrahamyan: 2/25/10

Armenia is ready to back out before it enters into a binding
reconciliation agreement with its long-time foe, Turkey. The Armenian
parliament on February 25 approved legislative amendments by a 70-4
margin that make it easy for the country's leaders to suspend or
abrogate international treaties. In effect, the amendments enable the
Armenian government to withdraw from protocols signed last October
with Turkey that govern a process to normalize relations. [For
background see the Eurasia Insight archive]. The protocols will enter
force only after they are ratified by the two countries' respective
parliaments. So far, neither has done so.

Progress toward ratification has been at a standstill in recent weeks.
[For background see the Eurasia Insight archive]. Officials and
political analysts said that the amendments to the Law on
International Treaties adopted on February 25 were a way for Armenia
to hedge its bet on the reconciliation process. ""We will continue the
process, the Armenian side wholeheartedly wishes for the protocols to
become reality. However, we have to have necessary mechanisms for any
possible scenario, and, come the need, the law will be applied to the
protocols as well," Armenia's Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian told

Representatives of the Heritage Party and the Armenian Revolutionary
Federation (ARF), two opposition parties with seats in parliament,
said they weren't fully satisfied with the amendments. Even so, the
ARF voted with the governing coalition to approve the amendments. The
Heritage Party opted to oppose them. "This is a step forward, however,
according to this draft only the executive branch will have the power
to suspend the signing and ratification processes of international
agreements, and we demand that the legislative branch also have this
right," ARF MP Armen Roustamian told EurasiaNet.

A Heritage leader, meanwhile, described the amendments as a "bad exit
strategy." "We believe that the draft needs a number of improvements
and additions and because this is only a half-step; we do not approve
of half-steps," the head of the Heritage faction, Stepan Safarian,
stated in parliament. Stepan Grigorian, the director of the Analytic
Center on Globalization and Regional Cooperation in Yerevan, took
issue with the timing of the parliamentary vote. He suggested that it
unnecessarily put Yerevan on the defensive in what is now shaping up
in a public-relations contest to assign blame for the stalemate in the
reconciliation process. "Armenia could have simply ratified [the
protocols] and waited for Turkey's steps, and if Turkey failed [to
ratify], then ? we could have appeared before the international
community with a clear conscience," Grigorian told EurasiaNet. "In
this case, Turkey can use the [adoption of] the amendments to say that
Armenia is getting ready to pull-out."

Ratification of the reconciliation protocols remains a hot topic in
Armenia. Earlier in February, National Assembly Deputy Speaker Samvel
Nikoian hinted that Armenia might take the first move toward
ratification. [For background see the Eurasia Insight archive].
Nikoian's statement generated a sharp reaction from representatives of
the Prosperous Armenia party, a member of the governing coalition.
Prosperous Armenia leaders have insisted that Yerevan should consider
ratification only after the Turkish legislature has already done so.
At this point, many with ties to the governing coalition are sceptical
about ratification. "I consider it most unlikely that Armenia might
ratify the protocols first," former Justice Minister David Harutyunian
told EurasiaNet.

Editor's Note: Gayane Abrahamyan is a freelance reporter based in Yerevan.


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