Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at GMAIL.COM
Thu Jan 7 21:01:53 UTC 2010

Marianna Grigoryan: 1/06/10

The Armenian-Turkish reconciliation process appears to be losing
momentum. Recent statements made by Armenian leaders signal a
toughening of Yerevan's stance, local analysts say. The signing of the
reconciliation protocols in October generated considerable opposition
in both Armenia and Turkey. [For background see the Eurasia Insight
archive]. In addition, the possibility of an Armenian-Turkish
rapprochement has sown tension between Turkey and Azerbaijan, which is
Ankara's traditional strategic ally and Yerevan's long-time foe. [For
background see the Eurasia Insight archive].

Some analysts in Yerevan believe that President Serzh Sargsyan's
administration may have underestimated the depth of domestic public
suspicion of Turkey that is fueling opposition to the protocols. Thus,
in recent weeks the administration has appeared increasingly hesitant
to move forward. "I think the process is suspended," said Yervand
Bozoyan, an independent political analyst. "Authorities [in Yerevan]
were not quick to perceive what was going on in reality, but it's
better late than never."

David Shahnazaryan, a senior figure in the main opposition movement,
the Armenian National Congress, contended that the government is now
scrambling to limit the domestic political damage. "Authorities are
now seeking ways to alleviate the consequences of their mistakes,"
Shahnazaryan said. Legislative ratification in both countries is
required for the protocols to take force. Given the strong opposition
in both countries, neither parliament seems eager to make the first
move toward sealing the reconciliation deal. In recent weeks,
officials in Yerevan have shifted away from an optimistic tone,
focusing instead on perceived efforts by Turkey to place conditions on
its ability to proceed with the rapprochement effort.

Armenian concerns rose following a December 7 meeting in Washington
between Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and US President
Barack Obama. Turkish officials confirmed that the Nagorno-Karabakh
issue was a central feature of those discussions.

Afterwards, Erdogan hinted that some movement on the Karabakh peace
process would be necessary in order for Turkey to ratify the
Armenian-Turkish protocols. The assumption among many in Yerevan is
that Turkey would need Armenia to make fresh concessions on the
Karabakh question that would somehow benefit Azerbaijan. [For
background see the Eurasia Insight archive].

In response to Erdogan's Washington comments, Armenian Prime Minister
Tigran Sargsyan, in a December 19 interview published in the Hurriyet
Daily News, cautioned that if Turkey tried to link Karabakh progress
to ratification of the protocols then Armenia "would be free" to
impose conditions of its own.

President Serzh Sargsyan in mid-December stated flatly that if Turkey
proposed any sort of pre-condition for ratification, Yerevan would
immediately abrogate the protocols. Meanwhile, Parliament Speaker
Hovik Abrahamyan hinted during a late December news conference that
Turkey would have to make the first ratification move.

If the Turkish parliament "ratifies the documents within reasonable
terms and without preconditions, we will do the same," Abrahamyan
said. "If not, our reaction will be appropriate."

January 12 could mark an important milestone in Armenia for the
protocols, as that is the day that the country's Constitutional Court
is expected to issue its ruling on the legality of the
administration's decision to sign the protocols.

Tatul Hakobyan, an analyst at the Civilitas Foundation, believes that
the Armenian government has been outmaneuvered by Ankara. Officials in
Yerevan are now concentrating on finding a way to avoid assuming most
of the blame, in the event the protocols do not secure ratification.

Some analysts believe the spreading pessimism concerning the
reconciliation process is misplaced. One who remains optimistic is
Suren Surenyants, a member of the political board of the opposition
Republic Party. For him the recent Turkish maneuvering, as well as the
sharp Armenian response, is part of the bargaining process. He
expressed the belief that the protocols would be ratified by the end
of March.

"Both parties are trying to harden their statements expecting to
squeeze out most benefits from the process, which is normal,"
Surenyants told EurasiaNet.

Editor's Note: Marianna Grigoryan is a freelance reporter based in Yerevan.


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