100 years’ old crime

Armenia hopes for a reconciliation with Turkey

Hasmik Grigoryan
23 April 2015

Armenia and Turkey might take example from Polish-German reconciliation and set up new regional geopolitcs, writes an Armenian analyst. 

 

On April 24, 2015 Armenia will mark the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide. April 24, 1915 was the day when the Armenian intellectuals of Constantinople (Istanbul) were massacred in the Ottoman Empire. One of the greatest Armenian composers Komitas Vardapet survived the Genocide but was driven into madness by what he saw.

One and a half million Armenians were killed in 1915 in the Ottoman Empire. The current government of Turkey denies the fact of the Genocide and claims that the events of 1915 were not an ethnic cleansing but were a civil struggle during the World War First when many nations suffered.

When talking about the Armenian Genocide one needs to bear in mind that it is a priority issue for both Armenia as a state and for the Armenian Diaspora per se. In the result of the Genocide, Armenian Diaspora is spread all over the world and has strong influence both politically and economically. Armenia and the Armenian Diaspora lead the same policy on the issue of the Armenian Genocide through lobbying the recognition question in different states. Recognition of the Armenian Genocide is a core issue in the Armenian foreign policy.

More than 20 states have recognized the Armenian Genocide. In the preparation towards the 100th anniversary of the Genocide the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Armenia and its foreign representations have been actively working in this direction. The Mass of April 12th in St. Peter’s Basilica in commemoration of the centenary where the Pope Francis called the massacre by Ottoman Turks “the first Genocide of the 20th century” and referred to the international community to recognize it as such was one of the greatest successes of the Armenian diplomacy.

Concealing or denying evil is like allowing a wound to keep bleeding without bandaging it, said Pope Francis at the Mass at the Armenian Catholic rite in St. Peter’s Basilica honoring the centenary of the Armenian Genocide

The fact that the Catholic Church recognized the Armenian Genocide will have an unprecedented role and impact in the Catholic community of the World. On April 14, 2015 following the recognition of the Armenian Genocide by the Pope Francis, the Foreign Relations Commission of Czech Parliament adopted a resolution on the Armenian Genocide.

Turkey faces a dillemma

Obviously the success of Armenia in the recognition of the Armenian Genocide by the international community irritates Turkey. Turkey lobbies to prevent the recognition process and reacted against the Pope’s declaration.

Recognition of the Armenian Genocide is an important and sensible issue for the Armenian nation. The issue of Armenian Genocide forms the collective memory of Armenia. The Genocide issue mobilizes Armenians all over the world despite the political and religious views. Each diplomatic success aimed at the recognition of the Genocide gives a sense of power to Armenians.

However if we look at the problem in a wider sense, the politics of Armenia and Turkey might transform into a situation where the two countries compete in order persuade the international community to recognize who is the right actor.

At present Armenia gets more scores as the justice is on the Armenian side: on April 15, 2015 the European Parliament adopted resolution on the centenary of the Armenian Genocide calling for Turkey to recognize the Armenian Genocide. It is noteworthy that on March 17, 2015 the Eastern Partnership Euronest (EU+ Eastern Partnership countries) Parliamentary Assembly adopted a resolution on the Centennial of the Armenian Genocide. And this is the result of the Turkish politics of the denial and refusal of ratification of the Armenian-Turkish Protocols aimed at normalization of the relations without any preconditions.

As a reminder, the two Armenian-Turkish Protocols were signed in Zurich on October 10, 2009. The Protocols were signed but not ratified afterwards. The harsh policy of Turkey made Armenia to foster its diplomacy of solving the issue through 3rd states, i.e. working with international community on recognizing the Armenian Genocide.  This year Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan also recalled the Armenian-Turkish Protocols from the Parliament of Armenia.

In the long term perspective more and more countries will recognize the Armenian Genocide which will be considered by the Armenian Government and Armenians as a big success both in political and emotional senses. With its denial Turkish Government will lose its rating in the international arena taking into consideration the undemocratic steps by the Turkish Government. The big states will disturb Turkey from time to time through reminding its denial policy.

But from the wider angle and in the regional perspective Armenian diplomacy might face a difficult situation. The question is what will be next?

Landlocked country

It is noteworthy that Armenia is a landlocked country. It has a conflict with Azerbaijan and it has a closed border with Turkey. It insures its access to the world via Georgia and Iran. Looking at the situation in the regional and even wider geopolitical point of view Armenia needs to improve its situation in the sense of its neighbors.

The unresolved conflict with Azerbaijan and closed border with Turkey allows Russia to strengthen its influence in Armenia and play its game in the South Caucasus as it wishes. Moreover, the growth of Russian influence in Armenia weakens Armenia’s relations with the EU. In this sense it is essential for Armenia to revise its regional diplomacy in the long term perspective.

If we look back, Armenia could use two possibilities to start activities towards the recognition of the Armenian Genocide by Turkey. In December 2013, during his visit to Yerevan for the Black Sea Economic Cooperation group meeting, the Foreign Minister of Turkey Ahmet Davutoglu said that the deportation of Armenians in 1915 was inhumane, and Turkey has never supported the move. Using the term ‘deportation‘ was obviously a message to the Armenian Government given the fact that before his visit the Turkish officials only used the term ‘events of 1915’.

Right after that on the eve of 99th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide the incumbent Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who was the Prime Minister of Turkey at that time, offered condolences and wished that the Armenians who lost their lives in the context of the early 20th century rest in peace. Armenian Government and Armenians assessed these declarations as a game of Turkey and a new attempt to conceal the Genocide fact. However, Armenia could take an advantage and use the two messages by the Turkish officials to reverse it into an effort to make Turkey to recognize the Genocide and start a dialogue.

Central European experience 

In this sense, Polish-German reconciliation could serve as a good example for Armenia and Turkey. Germany and Poland have quite dark historical pages. However the sides overcome the difficulties and made a political breakthrough. The reconciliation process started in 1960s. The reconciliation Mass of November 1989, and the Treaty on Good Neighborliness and Friendly Cooperation between Poland and Germany of 1991 can serve as successful example of starting a dialogue.

Armenia needs to add a new component in its diplomacy and put its efforts towards the recognition of the Genocide by Turkey. In case the sides start the reconciliation process the situation in the region will be completely different. And in fact it will be a win-win game where Armenia and Turkey will be perceived as progressive countries that started the dialogue and will to transform the region into a prosperous area. The recognition of the Genocide by Turkey and commencement of cooperation will strengthen both Armenia and Turkey as separate states, increase their international rating and will foster the region as a cohesive entity.

But unfortunately nowadays Turkey has a unilateral pro-Azerbaijani position in the Nagorno Karabakh conflict, it keeps the Armenian-Turkish border closed in support to its ally Azerbaijan, Turkey did not ratify the Armenian-Turkish protocols and continues the denial policy. All these factors do not give a chance for the positive scenario.

And this is the reason that Armenia returned to its old paradigm of looking at Turkey as an eternal enemy.

Hasmik Grigoryan – analyst at Analytical Centre on Globalization and Regional Cooperation

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