'WHY SIGN PROTOCOLS IF THEY'RE NOT GOING TO BE RATIFIED?' SAYS ARMENIAN MFA EDWARD NALBANDIAN

Tert
Nov 2 2009
Armenia

Armenia's foreign minister has rejected Turkish calls for concessions
in the conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh in exchange for the historic
rapprochement between Yerevan and Ankara, reports Reuters news agency.

Speaking to Reuters late on Friday, Edward Nalbandian said negotiations
between Turkey and Armenia were over and both sides were obliged to
move quickly to establish diplomatic relations and open their border
under protocols signed last month.

Turkish leaders say they want to see progress in negotiations between
Armenia and Turkish ally Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh before
parliament in Ankara ratifies the accords, a link Armenia rejects.

"Why did we sign two protocols if we are not going to ratify and
implement them?" Nalbandian, said in an interview in Yerevan.

"I think the whole international community is waiting for quick
ratification and implementation and respect for the agreements which
are in the protocols," he said, speaking in English.

"If one of the sides will delay and create some obstacles in the way
of ratification and implementation, I think it could bear all the
responsibility for the negative consequences."

Turkey closed its border with Armenia in 1993 in solidarity with
Azerbaijan in its war with Armenian-backed ethnic Armenians in the
mountainous region of Nagorno-Karabakh.

The deal has encountered opposition in both countries, but full
rapprochement and an open border carries huge significance for Turkey's
clout as a regional power, for its bid to join the European Union
and for landlocked Armenia's crisis-hit economy.

But Ankara's Turkic-speaking ally Azerbaijan has reacted angrily,
fearing it will lose leverage over Armenians in their conflict over
Nagorno-Karabakh. The dispute threatens to tilt energy policy in
Azerbaijan, a supplier of oil and gas to the West through Turkey but
which is also being courted by Russia.

Diplomats and analysts say Turkey, before it ratifies the accords,
is seeking at least a small sign of progress in negotiations between
Armenia and Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh, where a fragile ceasefire
has held since 1994 but a peace deal has never been agreed.

Such a link is political dynamite for Armenians. The domestic
opposition and Armenia's huge and influential diaspora say Turkey
must first recognize last century's killings as genocide before ties
can be restored.

Nalbandian said the Armenian-Turkish thaw and the Nagorno-Karabakh
negotiations were "two separate processes."

"This is not only the Armenian approach but the approach of the
international community," he said, adding that negotiations between
Turkey and Armenia were over.

"Negotiations were finalized at the beginning of February."

Analysts are uncertain how firm the Turkish condition for ratification
really is, and say pressure on Ankara could mount with next April's
95th anniversary of the killings, when the U.S. president traditionally
issues a statement of commemoration.

Armenia says the killings were genocide, and wants U.S. President
Barack Obama to stick to an election campaign pledge to say the same.

Turkey rejects the term, saying many people died on both sides of
the conflict.

Mediators from the United States, Russia and France say they are making
progress towards a peace deal on Nagorno-Karabakh in talks between
Armenian President Serzh Sarksyan and Azerbaijan's Ilham Aliyev.

But Nalbandian played down talk of an imminent breakthrough.

There is a "positive dynamic", he said. "But to say that tomorrow or
in one month's time or in a very short period of time we will come
to the agreement, I don't think this is very serious."