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The issue of Genocide is a headache for Turkey


Standpoint of Armenia

The issue of Genocide is a headache for Turkey

Sergey Minasyan


Sergey Minasyan

Political scientist. Head of the Political Science Department at the Caucasus Institute.

Political scientist, the Head of the Political Science Department at the Caucasus Institute Sergey Minasyan gives his assessment on the Armenian-Turkish relations and on the progress thereof in light of the recent geopolitical developments. The political scientist predicts that if the current trends continue, the position of Armenia might be changed with Yerevan imposing conditions upon Turkey.            


REPAIR: Which are the most important points of conflict in the Armenian-Turkish relations? 

Sergey Minasyan: In fact, we don’t speak merely about a geographical conflict, because, of course, today there is such a concept in Armenia like insecurity but it is more connected with the history. Though Turkey is a strategic ally of Azerbaijan, however, it is very difficult to imagine that under a certain situation the NATO-member Turkey will attack Armenia. And, by the way, it is also explained by a large discrepancy between the potentials. Turkey is such a big country, it has so many serious problems and, for the sake of the reputation as well, Turkey is trying to show that it has serious problems with Armenia. However, problems with Armenia refer to the internal issues of the very country. The problem is not the geographical issue but the issue of Genocide with its all components is a big headache for Turkey. Because of the very headache Turkey seemed to be ready to make lots of concessions. Its failure during the football diplomacy is quite another thing. Due to the internal obstacles and persistence of Azerbaijan the problem does not involve classical geographical hazards, it is rather expressed in the form of stereotypes, images, since the geographical struggle between Armenia and Azerbaijan is obvious and will continue.

Armenia has the issue of Karabakh and blockade… Are these issues those two important issues that we have with Turkey? 

Those are the levers that Turkey makes use of… And this is not mainly because Turkey acts against Armenia in terms of power, but because many things come from the fear of Turkey. Supporting Azerbaijan on the issue of Karabakh seems to somewhat balance the situation… Not only in terms of the fact that Armenia raises the issue of the Genocide recognition, but sometimes many other states, irrespective of the will of Armenia, do as well... These powers take this step every time they have a problem with Turkey…

How does Armenia treat the issue of Genocide recognition by Turkey?

There isn’t any mutual agreement on that issue in the Armenian society and even among the elite. I think, except for a few dozen activists and political figures, the rest does not have any general understanding. For some people it is of no importance, even if Turkey recognizes the Genocide and takes upon itself the whole responsibility. It does not make any sense for them, unless Turkey surrenders the lands of Cilicia. The rest of the society thinks that it is desirable, but it will never come true, since the Turks remained the same and nothing has been changed. There is a very small group of people, which became even smaller after the football diplomacy, who hope that it will take place, but they can’t say either how it will take place, or, let’s assume, how Armenia will respond. Therefore, in fact, there isn’t any signal from Turkey.  The liberals of Istanbul do not really think over the issue seriously.

You have mentioned about the small number of liberals, which exists in Turkey and is ready to do something…  In the recent years communication with Turkish organizations has been so much that the ideas have been slightly changed as well and, as a result of all this, Armenia is ready to have diplomatic relations with Turkey without any preconditions. Why? 

This is the formula that existed during the football diplomacy. At this point, also based on the fact that there is no hope that negotiations will resume, position of Armenia might be completely different. And if Turkey tries to resume something, Armenia will put forward preconditions. And when they tried to have a fresh new start for the second time, the result was what it was… At the football diplomacy the Armenian party thought that it would be possible to hold more constructive negotiations with the Turkish party, because it was clear that there were red lines that Turkey would hardly be able to cross over or would do it, but not on its own will. In reality the issue was more about that Turkey commenced this process without any preconditions. Maybe this was also one of the major reasons that Armenia, as well, did not consider the Genocide recognition as a precondition. There was a gentlemen’s agreement, which was violated by Turkey flagrantly.

You said that in the new phase of negotiations Armenia might act with preconditions. Will the recognition of the Genocide be a number one precondition to begin diplomatic relations?   

The issue of Genocide is the strongest but not conventional weapon of Armenia in the relations with Turkey. Turkey in negotiations with Armenia grounds on the deplorable political, economic and military power. Armenia is incomparable with contemporary Turkey, but it puts forward the political and moral power, which is based on the historical facts and, somewhat, terrifies the Turkish society. The political situation is such that it is impossible to start with a white page, not even speaking about preconditions. In the foreseeable future any serious action of Turkey seems to be impossible.

That is to say Armenia is already sceptical about the resumption of negotiations with Turkey and won’t take the first step…

Sure. Of course, it was Armenia to start the football diplomacy but I think that the role of American partners of Armenia and their persuasions was great as well…

Do you think Armenia can put forward any claims for compensation to the very country for 1915? 

When there is no feasible realism and only the rhetoric part exists, then what’s the point of it? 

What is the importance of the right of claim that Armenia will put forward?  

It is important, since everything that is connected with Turkey directly relates to the national security of Armenia and it is simply the issue of existence. That is why everything connected with this country is of primary importance for Armenia. No matter what kind of headache we are for the very country, we do exist… At this point there is a lack of realistic dialogue.

In geopolitical terms, what impact can have a good or bad situation in Armenian-Turkish relations on the region?

If it were to take place, it would have been the only success story of the region. In terms of regional conflicts, it would have been a good example and the atmosphere would have changed not only in the Armenian-Turkish relations, but, why not, also regarding the issue of Karabakh. It would have been the first case when two countries, with extremely complex and sad historical past struggling against each other, found any way of reconciliation.

And in geopolitical terms, are the pressures and compulsions of Azerbaijan, which, of course, hold Turkey back from many things, so big and powerful or are they a little bit exaggerated ?  

When signing the protocols nothing of the kind was seen at all. Turkey was saying that it didn’t have such a problem. Thereafter, it began saying that it had serious problems and then that they played a decisive role. In fact, the problem is that despite not being a specialist on energy issues, the impression is that the energy importance of Azerbaijan is diminishing more and more (oil volumes are diminishing and gas volumes are not enough) and the end of the so called NABUCCO is the best proof of it… If we are speaking about the important political factors, it is the Kurdish issue in inter-political and regional terms. The Kurdish opening which gave no result and if the things stay the same, Turkey will not have any success history within its own history.

At least from the geopolitical point of view Azerbaijan has a braking effect on any positive development of Armenian-Turkish relations. In fact, reduction in energy sources may gradually bring to the solution of the Armenian-Turkish issue on the real platform… Shall we conclude from this that Armenia must wait for the reduction in Azerbaijan’s resources?

It is one of the factors. Political future of Erdohan is much more important than oil resources of Azerbaijan. 

What place does the improvement of Armenian-Turkish relations or, let’s say, the recognition of Genocide take in the foreign policy of Armenia?  

When the negotiation phase really starts, the issue will become primary very quickly, since it doesn’t relate only to the foreign and domestic policy of Armenia but it is also a very important link from the point of view of relations between Armenia and Diaspora.

What is important for Armenia and Diaspora today - to come out of the blockade or the recognition of the Genocide?  

It is difficult to differentiate one from another. Moreover, recognition of the Genocide may be also considered as a lever to ensure the solution of the second issue. We should understand that the foreign policy is a problem, where no matter how big and sensitive we are, since even the most sensitive pain may be a very effective lever both from our side and against us. The thing is that one of the most positive results of Armenian-Turkish processes is that people got rid of some phobias and a realistic understanding came forth…

How do you assess Davutoglu’s visit to Yerevan and his statement regarding the Armenian Genocide?

I think Davutoğlu’s visit was not extraordinary. If there weren’t the BSEC reunion, of course there were not have been any Nalbandyan-Davutoğlu dialogue. Consequently there should not be any serious expectations for any real results. Davutoğlu’s statement about the Armenian Genocide was an ordinary Turkish attempt to say something which sounds like an apology with new words, but without any political consequences for official Ankara.