Columnist Omer Taspinar comments on the Turkish-Armenian rapprochement. A summary of his column is as follows:
"It's been more than three months since the Turkish and Armenian foreign ministers signed protocols that were supposed to launch a historic reconciliation and rapprochement process between Yerevan and Ankara.
It was clear this wasn't going to be easy. The signing ceremony itself was beset by crisis. A major humiliation for all the dignitaries assembled for the occasion (the foreign ministers of Russia , France , Switzerland , EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana, and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton) was averted at the last minute. Yet the devil was still in the details: The protocols requires ratification by both nations' parliaments in order to go into effect.
There were major obstacles from the very start. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan linked ratification of the protocols and opening of the border to Armenian concessions in Nagorno-Karabakh. He made it clear, in speech after speech at home and abroad, that no positive steps could be taken before Armenia withdraws from Azerbaijan . This position comes out of domestic political concerns as well as the rigid Azeri position regarding Turkish-Armenian relations. Internally, the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) government is concerned about the opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) and Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) exploiting the issue. The party's respective leaders Deniz Baykal and Devlet Bahceli are nationalist hardliners who see the rapprochement as 'selling out' Turkish national interests.
They claim Armenia maintains territorial ambitions on Turkey and that the process will eventually lead to worldwide recognition of Armenia's version of history, followed with demands for financial compensation for the 'genocide' of 1915.
It doesn't help that elections are in the air.. The AKP has already spent precious political capital on its initiative on the Kurdish issue, which is also at an impasse after the Constitutional Court decided to close down the pro-Kurdish and pro-terrorist PKK Democratic Society Party (DTP). The AKP's nationalist credentials are under fire from the MHP. This poses a major dilemma for Erdogan because the AKP and the MHP often fight for the same political constituency, particularly in the conservative Anatolian heartland. Add to these internal political considerations a crucial external dimension:
Azerbaijan vehemently opposes the Turkish-Armenian rapprochement, which it sees as harmful to its interests and gravely damaging to its relations with 'fraternal' Turkey . Given the considerable influence of the Azeri lobby in Turkey and the fact that Turkey gets much of its oil and gas from Azerbaijan , this outside pressure further exacerbates domestic difficulties. All these dynamics explain the AKP's reluctance to ratify the two protocols.
The situation in Armenia is equally complicated. Yerevan has no intention of relinquishing control of Nagorno-Karabakh and must contend with the hard-line views of its influential global diaspora and vocal domestic opposition. The majority of diaspora Armenians have spent decades trying to persuade their governments to recognize the mass killing of Turkish Armenians in 1915-1918 as genocide. Today, they see Yerevan 's deal-making with its historic foe as unacceptable.
This is particularly the case with Armenian-Americans, who believe they are very close to such recognition thanks to campaign promises made by President Barack Obama. A historic deal between Yerevan and Ankara would be a major blow to their hopes of passing a genocide recognition resolution in the US Congress.
Given all these dimensions to the problem, there are clear limits to how much pressure the administration of Serzh Sargsyan can endure.
Facing growing domestic opposition, the pressure of the diaspora and the negative tone in Ankara , it is not surprising that Yerevan is having second thoughts about staying the course. Armenian Prime Minister Tigran Sargsyan recently cautioned that if Turkey tried to link the Karabakh progress to the ratification of the protocols then Armenia 'would be free' to impose conditions of its own. This was a clear hint that Armenia may bring the genocide issue to the table.
President Sargsyan stated flatly that if Turkey proposed any sort of precondition 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. In short, the Turkish-Armenian rapprochement is in deep trouble and needs to be rescued by visionary leadership, something in short-supply in both Ankara and Yerevan these days."
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