Concerning Errors in “Diplomatic History: The Turkey-Armenia Protocols”

by on 2012/03/03  •  In ԶԼՄ-ներում

Yesterday, “Diplomatic History: The Turkey-Armenia Protocols,”[1] a monograph by David L. Phillips was released by New York’s Columbia University.  From 2001 to 2004, David Phillips was the coordinator of the Turkish-Armenian Reconciliation Commission (TARC). Presently he is the Director of the Program on Peace-building and Rights Institute for the Study of Human Rights at Columbia University.

I have not read the whole 130 page monograph, but have quickly scanned through it. My first impression is that this monograph is relatively more objective than David Philips’ previous monograph on the subject of “the Turkish-Armenian conflict” (Unsilencing the Past: Track two Diplomacy and Turkish-Armenian Reconciliation, Berghahn Books, 2005). Even so, the new monograph contains errors which could have been avoided. For example, on page 10, Phillips errs when he writes: “On October 12, 2006, France made it a crime to deny that Armenians were victims of genocide.” On page 37, the monograph’s author errs again when he says: “Nicolas Sarkozy […] vowed to support genocide recognition if elected president of France.” And finally on page 95, Philips correctly writes: “As a follow-up to France’s 2001 law recognizing the killing of Armenians as genocide, the French Senate approved legislation making it a crime to deny officially recognized genocides on January 23, 2012.”

However, the reason I am compelled to write this commentary without having read the whole monograph is a couple of factual errors in it regarding the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Hai Heghapokhakan Dashnaktsutyun), for which I am in charge of the international secretariat and the Armenian Cause (Hai Dat) office.

On page 42, Phillips writes: “Şevki Mütevellioğlu, Chief of Protocol for Gül, also visited Armenia for discussions with Armenian officials and Dashnak representatives. They negotiated the location and size of demonstrations, as well as the language of banners and signs. They agreed that protesters could condemn Turkey’s denial of the genocide, but that signs should not personally criticize Gül.” The footnote says: “[Turkish-Armenian Business Development Council co-chairman Kaan] Soyak, in discussion with author.” I do not know what has Soyak exactly told Phillips, and I expect him to comment on my public comment. The way Phillips has written, the reader would get the impression that Mütevellioğlu negotiated with the ARF-“Dashnak representatives.” While I do not know what Mütevellioğlu negotiated about with Armenian officials, I know that the ARF-Dashnaktsutyun, except informing the Armenian relevant authorities about the locations and nature of the demonstrations, did not negotiate any of the above with neither the Armenian authorities, nor with Mütevellioğlu. The only “Dashnak representative” Mütevellioğlu met was me. The whole “meeting” lasted a couple of minutes, when on a late evening of early September of 2008, a mutual acquaintance introduced us to each other at the terrace café of Marriott Armenia at the very center of Yerevan. I was sitting with a couple of Turkish commentators and Mr. Mütevellioğlu had gotten up from another table to go to the inside of the hotel. When he was passing by our table, we were introduced and I made a comment, then one of the people I was sitting with made a comment, we laughed and Mr. Mütevellioğlu said good night and left. I am not naming any of those in attendance, but all of them are well and alive and can correct me if my memory is wrong.

Another major error regarding the ARF-Dashnaktsutyun’s policies is on page 67. David Phillips writes: “Dashnaks also criticized an element of the [Armenia’s Constitutional] Court’s [January 12, 2010] finding that committed Armenia to recognize its existing border with Turkey, despite having recognized the border themselves.” There are no references to these wrong assertions. First, the Constitutional Court did not make any ruling “that committed Armenia to recognize its existing border with Turkey;” on the contrary[2]. In its January 12, 2010 Statement on the Decision of the Constitutional Court, the ARF-Dashnaktsutyun states that the Court found that “The legal assertion of the interstate borders between Armenia and Turkey cannot be realized through these protocols. The border issue is an open one. It can be resolved solely based on an inter-state agreement to be discussed in the future, based on the Constitution and laws of the Republic of Armenia.”[3] Phillips’ assertion that “Dashnaks […] hav[e]  recognized the [the existing Armenia-Turkey] border themselves,” is unfounded and misleading.

David Phillips also errs when on pages 100-101 he writes: “Dashnaks publicly insist on pre-conditions to normalization. There can be no progress until Ankara acknowledges the genocide, pays compensation, and returns territories.” Once again, there is no reference to this wrong assertion. “The ARF-Dashnaktsutyun has declared time and again, that good-neighborly relations between the two countries can only be established after the recognition by Turkey of the Armenian Genocide and the restoration of the rights of the Armenian people. The lifting of the blockade and the establishment of diplomatic relations, without preconditions, can only serve as first steps on this path.”[4]

These errors could have been prevented, had David Phillips contacted the ARF-Dashnaktsutyun for an interview, or had he turned to ARF-Dashnaktsutyun’s official English language website.[5]




[2] See page 5 of the non-official English translation of the Court’s ruling


[4] ARF-Dashnaktsutyun April 23, 2009 Statement on the Normalization of Armenian-Turkish Relations


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