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Cablegate: Armenia's Constitutional Court Approves Turkey-Armenia

VZCZCXRO7551
RR RUEHIK
DE RUEHYE #0022/01 0140523
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 140523Z JAN 10
FM AMEMBASSY YEREVAN
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 9940
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
RUEHAK/AMEMBASSY ANKARA 1884
RUEHIT/AMCONSUL ISTANBUL 0840
RUEHDA/AMCONSUL ADANA 0032
RUEHLMC/MILLENNIUM CHALLENGE CORPORATION WASHINGTON DC

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 YEREVAN 000022

SENSITIVE

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR EUR/CARC

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PBTS PGOV PREL TU AJ AM
SUBJECT: ARMENIA'S CONSTITUTIONAL COURT APPROVES TURKEY-ARMENIA
PROTOCOLS

YEREVAN 00000022 001.3 OF 002


-------
SUMMARY
-------

1. (SBU) On January 12 Armenia's Constitutional Court ruled that the
provisions of the Armenian-Turkish protocols on establishing
diplomatic relations and developing bilateral relations are in
compliance with the Armenian constitution. Addressing criticisms
from opponents of the protocols, the Court stated that the protocols
did not contradict Armenia's constitutional imperative to seek
international recognition of the Armenian "genocide." The Court
also stressed that the development of bilateral relations would
involve further specific agreements, and that these agreements would
themselves be subject to the same ratification requirements as the
protocols. Some nationalists who oppose the protocols see this
statement as a silver lining, interpreting it to mean that Armenia
has not legally accepted the current border with Turkey. END
SUMMARY.

--------------------------------------------- -
COURT'S QUICK, RESTRICTIVE REVIEW OF PROTOCOLS
--------------------------------------------- -

2. (U) On January 12, Armenia's Constitutional Court (its
counterpart to the U.S. Supreme Court) reviewed a request by
President Serzh Sargsian to ascertain whetherthe provisions of the
Armenian-Turkish protocols on establishing diplomatic relations and
developing bilateral relations (signed October 10, 2009, in Zurich)
complied with the requirements of the Armenian constitution.

3. (U) The Court restricted the format of the session, allowing the
media access for only four minutes, which Gagik Harutiunian, the
Court's chairman, used to announce that the court's nine judges
would consider only written statements submitted by the Armenian
Foreign Ministry and other interested parties. The chosen format
excluded public hearings or questioning of government officials and
experts. Explaining the review, Harutiunian declared that "all (of)
those written documents that have been submitted to the
Constitutional Court are available in the deliberations room and the
members of the court can take them into account." Harutiunian noted
that the Court would also consider the nine-page-long petition
submitted by the nationalist Dashnakstutiun party and other
opponents of the protocols.

--------------------------------
FEEBLE PROTEST OUTSIDE THE COURT
--------------------------------

4. (SBU) Throughout the day, dozens of Dasnhaks, members of 14 other
political parties (including the opposition Heritage party), and
NGOs that oppose the protocols gathered outside the Court to protest
the widely anticipated positive ruling of the Court. News reports
indicated that diaspora members of the Dashnaktsutiun party also
participated in the small protest, coming from as far away as the
United States.

-------------------------------------------
RULING SEEKS TO PREEMPT DOMESTIC OPPOSTION?
-------------------------------------------

5. (SBU) In its ruling, the Court made a number of statements that
appear intended, at least in part, to counter criticisms of the
protocols, criticisms that have been made most forcefully by the
nationalist opposition and by many in the Armenian diaspora.
Specifically, the Court stated in its ruling that:

-- The protocols "cannot be interpreted or applied in a way that
may contradict" provisions of Armenia's Constitution and
Independence Declaration that dedicate the state to seeking
international recognition of the Armenian "genocide." This
statement appears to serve three purposes: to imply that the
protocols themselves to do not contradict Armenia's position on the
"genocide;" to reassure the public that any future action taken
under the protocols will not create such a contradiction; and to
give Armenian negotiators an explicit constitutional mandate they
can cite to Turkey as limiting room for Armenian compromise on
historical issues.

-- The protocols impose no obligation on Armenia regarding its
relations with any third country (i.e., Azerbaijan), and no third
country can use the protocols to impose demands on Armenia.

-- The protocols' preamble language, "confirming," "considering,"
"guided by," etc., does not impose binding obligations on Armenia,

YEREVAN 00000022 002.3 OF 002


and no other obligations could come into force until the two main
obligations under the protocols, establishment of diplomatic
relations and opening the border, have been fulfilled. For
Armenians, the most sensitive among these clauses in the protocols'
preamble may be the one saying: "Confirming the mutual recognition
of the existing border between the two countries as defined by the
relevant treaties of international law;"

-- The protocols focus mainly on creating the conditions for
further development of relations, and this further development will
require additional specific agreements, all of which will be subject
to the Armenian constitution and the same ratification process that
the protocols themselves are going through now.

-- The commitment to open the border "refers to Armenia's readiness
of addressing legal, organizational and infrastructure issues
related to ensuring ongoing operation of border checkpoints." This
statement may also be intended to avoid explicit recognition of the
current border. Additionally, it may have been included to make
Armenia's point that Turkey, not Armenia, closed the border, and
that therefore in a legal sense action by Turkey alone would be
sufficient to reopen it.[If we wanted to shorten, we might take this
sub-para out.]

6. (SBU) A Dashnak leader told us that he sees the requirement for
ratification of any more specific agreements as a plus, despite his
overall wish that the Court had shot down the protocols, because he
interprets it to mean that the Court is not treating the protocols
as acceptance of the current Turkey-Armenia border.

--------------------------------------------- -
ON TO RATIFICATION? NOT UNTIL TURKEY RATIFIES
--------------------------------------------- -

7. (U) The Court's ruling legally paved the way for the ratification
of the protocols by Armenia's National Assembly (parliament). The
parliament's ratification, however, is not a given. In December,
2009, Hovik Abrahamian, the Speaker of the National Assembly, stated
that Armenia would ratify the protocols only after Turkey's
parliament ratified them. Eduard Sharmazanov, spokesman for
President Sargsian's ruling Republican Party of Armenia, who
attended the Court's review, insisted that "the Turkish side must be
the first to ratify them (the protocols) because it's the Turkish
side that has always talked in the language of preconditions and
ultimatums." Armen Rustamian, a Dashnak leader who has led most of
theDashnak protests of the protocols, expressed hope after the
ruling that President Sargsian will now add "reservations" to the
Court's decision before he presents it to the National Assembly.

-------
COMMENT
-------

8. (SBU) Given the interpretations in the Court's ruling, we think
it unlikely that President Sargsian will see a need to attach
reservations to the protocols when he submits them to the National
Assembly. He will probably judge that this ruling has sufficiently
answered his domestic critics, and thus equipped him with the
maneuvering room he deems necessary to proceed with eventual
ratification. Judging by the feeble showing of the Dashnaks,
however, the forceful remarks of the ruling party spokesperson, and
President Sargsian's control of the judicial and legislative
branches, the last real hurdle for ratification -- at least from the
Armenian political establishment's perspective -- lies in the
Turkish parliament.

PENNINGTON

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
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