Armenia withdraws key peace accords with Turkey

Serzh Sargsyan []

Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan said on Monday (16 February) he withdrew from parliament landmark peace accords with Turkey, setting further back U.S.-backed efforts to bury a century of hostility between the neighbours.

The two countries signed accords in October 2009 to establish diplomatic relations and open their land border, trying to overcome the legacy of the World War One mass killing of Armenians by Ottoman Turks.

The process had been deadlocked by nationalists on both sides, and Ankara and Yerevan have accused the other of trying to rewrite the texts and setting new conditions. Many Armenians want Turkey to recognise the 1915 mass killings as genocide and pay reparations, proposals Ankara balks at.

Neither parliament has approved the deal, which would bring huge economic gains for poor, landlocked Armenia, burnish Turkey’s credentials as an EU candidate and boost its clout in the strategic South Caucasus.

“We were ready for a fully-fledged settlement in our relations with Turkey by ratifying these protocols, but we were also ready for failure,” Sargsyan said in a letter that had been sent to the parliament, his press service said.

He blamed Turkey for “absence of the political will” in finding solution.

“We have nothing to hide and it should be clear for the international community whose fault it was that the last closed European border was not open,” he said.

Armenia, a country of 3.2 million, is approaching the 100th-anniversary of the killings, when tens of thousands lay flowers at a hilltop monument in the capital on April 24th.

U.S. President Barack Obama will issue a statement to mark the anniversary of the massacres, a defining element of Armenian national identity and thorn in the side of Turkey.

Muslim Turkey accepts many Christian Armenians died in partisan fighting beginning in 1915 but denies that up to 1.5 million were killed and that it amounted to genocide — a term used by some Western historians and foreign parliaments. 

Hundreds of thousands of Christian Armenians died during forced removals in 1915 by the Ottoman army from what is now Eastern Turkey, but Turkey denies that the move constituted genocide.

The country's attitude vis-à-vis the bloodshed in 1915 is one of the defining aspects of modern Turkish diplomacy, with any use of the term ‘genocide’ either within Turkey or abroad swiftly denounced by Ankara.

Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink was killed in 2007 after openly saying that the events of 1915 were genocide.

In December 2008, a group of Turkish intellectuals launched an online petition for people who want to apologize in a personal capacity.

>> Read: Turkish intellectuals apologise for Armenian genocide

Several EU countries recognise the Armenian genocide: Belgium. Cyprus, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Lithuania, Netherlands, Poland, Slovakia, Sweden.

Several official US documents describe the 1915 events as “genocide” and 43 out of the 50 US states have made declarations recognising the Armenian genocide. On 4 March, the US House Committee on Foreign Affairs has recognized the massacres of 1915 as "genocide”. 

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