Monday, May 10, 2010

Armenian President Sarkisian has suspended the ratification of diplomatic protocols with Turkey after the ruling coalition's demand. AFP photo.
Turkey acted with political naivety during the Turkish-Armenian reconciliation process since its actions were based on wishful thinking, an American expert on conflict prevention and peace building said over the weekend.
“Turkey acted on two assumptions. First, Turkey thought the reconciliation process would galvanize the Minsk Group to find a solution to Nagorno-Karabakh,” said David Phillips, director of the program on Conflict Prevention and Peace-building at American University. The Minsk Group, composed of diplomats from countries including Russia, the United States and France, mediates between Armenia and Azerbaijan to find a solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh problem, an Azerbaijani territory under Armenian occupation.
Turkey also acted on the assumption that efforts to gain international recognition of Armenian claims of genocide will end, said Phillips, adding that both assumptions were wishful thinking. “There was no linkage between the protocols and the Nagorno-Karabakh problem,” said the former adviser to the U.S. State Department, adding that Turkey should not have signed the protocols based on wishful thinking.
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had pledged Azerbaijan a few days after Turkey and Armenia had reached an agreement on the protocols that they would not be ratified unless a solution to the Nagorno-Karbakh was found. As the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, refrained from sending the protocols to Parliament, the Armenian administration suspended the ratification effort last month.
Turkey was not serious about ratifying the protocols and therefore made no significant effort to see them ratified, Phillips told the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review.
Armenia could not wait forever and hence suspended the ratification process, according to Phillips, who is pessimistic about the near future. “I don't see what Turkey gains if it ratifies the protocols. They will loose support if they do it before the elections,” said Phillips, who is the author of many books and publications, including “Unsilencing the Past: Track Two Diplomacy and Turkish-Armenian Reconciliation.”
Kurdish opening just rhetoric
Phillips was equally critical of the government’s Kurdish opening. The opening has remained as rhetoric, according to Phillips, who was in Istanbul to participate at a seminar organized by Sabancı University. The government raised high expectations by initiating Kurdish broadcasting through the state television channel TRT 6. “But since then, the Kurdish opening has not gone anywhere, especially as far as the constitutional reforms are concerned,” he said.
The Kurdish problem needs to be addressed by a comprehensive approach, which should include an amnesty component. “The amnesty issue is a very bitter pill for the Turks. The PKK [outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party] has been responsible for so much misery for so long, and it has been demonized by the politicians and the media,” he said, adding that there should be a phased amnesty, based on rank and file. The PKK is listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey as well as the United States and the European Union.
“I do not believe the commanders will get amnesty. They should settle in the country where they stay,” Phillips said, recalling that this would require cooperation from Turkey's neighboring countries.