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New century, old problems, in search for the future


Standpoint of Armenia


New century, old problems, in search for the future
Hakob Badalyan


Hakob Badalyan

Editor-in-chief of the website

In this article, Hakob Badalyan comes back particularly on the issue of reparations, now very topical, and cites the statements of Aram 1st and Garegin II on this topic. The journalist also addresses a frequently avoided subject, that of the Russian-Turkish Treaty of 1921, he said, should be revised if an international recognition of the Armenian Genocide would take place. The author also regrets the absence of a reference to the treaty in the the Pan-Armenian Declaration of the centenary of the Armenian Genocide, which "cannot be a document that gives a tangible idea about the future and prospect of the Armenian-Turkish relations". Referring to the complex relationships between Turkey, Azerbaijan, Russia and Armenia, the author explains the territorial impasse in which the South Caucasus relies. Finally, even if he considers the connections between Turkish and Armenian civil societies necessary and important, they are insufficient for him. For the author, "Turkey must change Turkey's civil society and Armenia must change Armenia's civil society".

The number of vehicles with images of Forget-Me-Notes has significantly reduced in Yerevan. Moreover, after April 24 the Forget-Me-Not again appeared in the spotlight of the Armenian society on May 19 in the hands of the participant representing Russia in the Eurovision 2015. After April 24, having been the culmination of the Centenary of the Armenian Genocide, May 19 in some sense symbolized in whose hands the future of the Armenian-Turkish relation is. Russia plays a pivotal role in the future of that relationship as it did in the past and present of such relationship.  This assertion is not fatalism, but rather a logical conclusion arrived at as a result of collation of a number of factors. Yet, it would be certainly a big omission and slip to condition future developments of the Armenian-Turkish relations exceptionally by Russia. Determining factors are great many and though the role and influence of Russia in this regard is beyond competition, however, there are a few other directions, which, this or that way, have a significant impact on the prospects of the Armenian-Turkish relations.

100 years later on “April” 25

The Forget-Me-Notes became a public indicator of the events and general process of the centenary of the Armenian Genocide in the Ottoman Empire. The Armenian society was measuring the process mostly by Forget-Me-Notes and certain decrease in interest towards them resulted in a silent public perception that the centenary was an event, which ended, an outburst, successful or unsuccessful, efficient or inefficient, which, however, stopped. Probably the feeling of those moods and perceptions was the reason why President of Armenia Serzh Sargsyan, when delivering his speech at the meeting of the Board of Trustees of Hayastan All-Armenian Fund on May 27, declared that noting was over: “I think that all of us will have the chance to fully analyze the work carried out throughout the Centennial not only to demonstrate the active involvement of people, but also to draw conclusions and to make next year's events more effective. The Centennial is not end in itself. We will make continued efforts until we achieve worldwide recognition.”

Of course, it would be illogical if Serzh Sargsyan or anybody else declared the contrary, advising everyone to “go home”. Though this question was also raised in parallel with the events dedicated to the centenary of the Armenian Genocide, at present the question is “What will happen after the centenary? What will Armenia do? What will be the fate of the Armenian-Turkish relations? At the same time it is also logical that Armenia could not have already presented its further action plan, taking into consideration that the Armenian-Turkish relation is a broad and comprehensive geopolitical process, which is impossible to plan entirely.

The issue is whether the government of Armenia, Armenian political authorities, society, geopolitical centers, having a great role in the affairs of the Armenian-Turkish relations, and lastly Turkey have any ideas in that regard. An extremely difficult geopolitical period has fallen on the centenary as well as on the time period following it, which is often compared to the time period when the Armenian Genocide took place. Like 100 years ago, nowadays as well, a process of shaping a new world order is taking place in the globe. These processes are very much alike, but are not a mirror reflection. A simple example is that 100 years ago there was the factor of Armenians and now there is the factor of Armenia, which significantly changes the picture and makes the Armenian-Turkish relation one of the complex knots of the reshuffling and reviewing process of the world order. A knot, which itself bears other influences, is rather crucial with its “potential” not only in the sense of two countries and peoples, but also in the sense of worldwide relations.

This complexity and uncertainty was, to some extent, reflected in the pan-Armenian Declaration on the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide, the authors of which did their best not to miss any of the crucial circumstances and not to take upon any clear-cut responsibility either for near or far future. In that sense, at first glance the declaration gives answers to a number of key questions. However, at the same time, new questions regarding the actions to be taken by Armenia for the future of the Armenian-Turkish relations arise from the Declaration.

What we remember is clear and what do we demand?

The issue of claim is pivotal here. One of the turning circumstances reported in the process of the 100th anniversary was that the issue of calling Turkey for restitution became more agile. This issue is either present or not in the Pan-Armenian Declaration. It is on the pan-Armenian level, but it is cancelled on the state level.

“This is the headquarters of the church. This is the first legal step, which must be followed by our claim to return all churches, monasteries, church-related properties and, finally, the individual properties. We should move forward step by step,” said His Holiness Catholicos Aram I of the Holy See of Cilicia in an interview to The New York Times, speaking about filing legal claims against Turkey to regain ownership of the historic headquarters of the Catholicosate of Sis. Aram I spoke about that intention for the first time at the Armenia-Diaspora Conference, held in Yerevan in September 2014. Shortly after 24 April 2015 Aram I brought his intention into effect.

The next was an interview with the Catholicos of All Armenians Karekin II to the radio station "Voice of America". During the interview he declared that Mother See of Holy Echmiadzin was going to come up with the similar claim against Turkey: “An instruction has been issued to study this matter and reveal the archival documents. This is a process, which requires serious researches.”

 “The Republic of Armenia has never declared any territorial claims either to Turkey or any other country since its independence. There has never been such an issue on the foreign policy agenda of our country, and there is none today. That is a clear-cut position. We are a fully-fledged and responsible member of the international community. As a member to the United Nations, we recognize our role in international affairs, we respect the principles of international law and, incidentally, we anticipate the same from our neighbor to the west. The one that illegally keeps the border with our country closed, turning it into the last closed border in Europe, and brings up unacceptable preconditions for the establishment of the diplomatic relations with Armenia is disrespect toward the international community that mediated the Zurich Protocols and own signature underneath,” declared the president of the Republic of Armenia Serzh Sargsyan in the interview to Turkish newspaper Hurriyet on April 24.  On April 27 Sargsyan actually repeated that approach during "Pozner" program broadcast by the Channel One Russia.    

This approach has been repeated by all three presidents of Armenia since independence. The problem here is not in the state approach but whether to what extent are comparable or divergent the state approaches of Armenia and pan-Armenian stance. Finally, there is a circumstance beyond the formal aspect, when the Armenian parties may demonstrate divergent opinions as to tactics, when the Armenian institutions will come up with restitution claims against Turkey and the state, announcing about the lack of any claim, will contribute to supporting the so-called useless claims. Furthermore, this circumstance may be     entirely logical and acceptable also in the practice of international politics in the sense of tactics. Another question is to what extent it will be efficient, reasonable and rational.  However, it is absolutely acceptable and perceptible. The situation is becoming complicated when separate institutions, Diaspora circles and the Armenian state do have a divergent opinion regarding the issue of claim.   

Actually, it turns out that in the prospect of actions to be taken by Armenia and the Armenians regarding the issue of the Armenian-Turkish relations and recognition of the Armenian Genocide, the issue of restitution is explicit. However, this issue is also the matter of internal uncertainties and the right hand is not only unaware of the actions taken by the left hand, but also what it wants in general. This circumstance, in its turn, exacerbates the issue as to what Armenia wants in general.   

“The bridges of rapprochement are not burned yet and we even initiated rapprochement ourselves. However, it is impossible to open the door the key of which we don’t have. And even now, when we commemorate the centennial of our innocent victims, I declare that we are ready for the normalization of relations with Turkey, for starting a process of rapprochement between the Armenian and Turkish nations without any preconditions,” said Serzh Sargsyan in the interview to Turkish newspaper Hurriyet.

It is very hard to impugn that the Armenian-Turkish reconciliation process has no alternative, and probably might never have. It is also difficult to argue that this process might be effective, if Armenia and Turkey act as key subjects. At present the so-called Armenian-Turkish process has a more declarative nature. Within the contextual meaning many other relationships develop under that process - Russia-Turkey, Turkey-USA, Turkey-EU and Turkey-Azerbaijan. At the intersection of such relations Armenia, being a primary recipient de jure, is de facto deprived of the independent subjectivity, which gives rise to the absence of clear-cut strategy of Armenia in the issue of the Armenian-Turkish relations.  Armenia's approach is exposed to geopolitical realities, to the Russian-Turkish relations in particular. Turkey-Russia relations are pivotal for any outlook of the Armenian-Turkish relations.

Russian-Turkish unforgettable alliance

Although many countries all over the world still do not recognize the Armenian Genocide, however, Turkey and Russia are the main parties interested in the denial of genocide. In fact, these two states divided the consequence of WW I and the Armenian Genocide in the South Caucasus among themselves as a political trophy. It was stipulated by the           concluded in Kars. Under this Treaty Russia and Turkey actually divided Armenia and the Caucasus between themselves. In case of international recognition of the Armenian Genocide, the issue of restitution does not lead to material compensation at all or is not limited by this factor only.

International recognition of the Armenian Genocide inevitably brings forward the grounds for reconsideration of the Turkish-Russian Treaty. International recognition will create a basis for the review of the regional map, which was formed in the early 20th century based on the consequences of the Armenian Genocide. And the problem here is not only the territorial or material other claims of the Armenians against Turkey. They make a small part of the great content that in the geopolitical sense it includes the recognition of the Armenian Genocide. The issue of the regional map is actual, which has a great impact on the deployment of the geopolitical forces.

From this point of view, Russia and Turkey are strategic and natural allies, related to each other by an actual "common crime", which was perpetrated against the Armenians and Armenia a century ago.

In that sense, it is strange at least that nothing is stated about the Russian-Turkish Treaty of 1921 in the Pan-Armenian Declaration on the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide.  While talking about the elimination of the consequences of genocide and not touching upon that treaty is practically impossible.  Only this circumstance is enough to conclude that the Pan-Armenian Declaration has a “moral” meaning at large and does not itself cover the entire geopolitical depth of the Armenian issue, and therefore, cannot be a document that gives a tangible idea about the future and prospect of the Armenian-Turkish relations and a document that gives a strategic hint.    

If there isn’t any confirmation of willingness to bring the issue of the Russian-Turkish Treaty to the international agenda, visible framework of the next action to be taken in this regard, the motivation to  internationally recognize the genocide  significantly decreases for the international community, particularly for the key Western states that haven’t recognized the Armenian Genocide yet and for the USA having an undisputed key role particularly in this issue, because in the next move they need Armenia as a partner, which will dare to raise the issue of reconsidering the Russian-Turksih Treaty. Lack of this circumstance will turn the recognition of the genocide into the false start for the USA.     

Only Armenia may submit an application to review the Russian-Turksih Treaty as well as the South Caucasus map, drawn by Turkey and Russia after World War I, because Armenia is divided and possible allowable limits of the game for Armenia are stipulated by this Treaty.  

The problem is not that Armenia must submit a territorial or any other claim against Turkey.  Armenia must not publically refuse submitting such claims, following the requirement stipulated by the Russian-Turkish Treaty. To declare about this, means to declare about commitment to the Russian-Turkish Treaty.  

Moreover, the issue of expressing commitment to that Treaty is put before all Armenian presidents, because two former presidents of Armenia also made statements about lack of claim against Turkey. While, as long as the Russian-Turkish Treaty is effective and the ways of possible initiatives of Armenia to bring the provisions of that Treaty to the international agenda and argue them are closed, Turkey doesn’t have any interest in building relations with Armenia directly.  

Normalization of the Armenian-Turkish relations should be one of the primary goals that must pursue the needs of the Armenian Cause, including its compliance with norms of civilization as a stable guarantee of regional and international security.  The issue of claim must be an important part of the foreign policy arsenal for Armenia, but not as a target, rather as a means – the means of bringing Turkey to a dialogue with Armenia. For this purpose, Armenia itself should be a sovereign entity capable of an independent dialogue, and have its own agenda and strategy for reconciliation and normalization of the Armenian-Turkish relations.    

The issue is quite different for Turkey. The Armenian Cause is problematic for Ankara, and maybe a kind of headache, but at the same time it is one more way to maneuver between the West and Russia. Currently, this maneuver seems to be the axis of Turkey’s foreign policy.    The president of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdoğan seeks to bring Turkey out of the influence of the West and act as an independent geopolitical player, with influential geopolitical centers reckoning with it. Turkey believes that the present strained confrontation between the West and Russia is an appropriate opportunity to gain favorable positions and consolidate independence through the very maneuver. It is obvious that the western policy does not have new solutions regarding Turkey and this country is being viewed as the last bastion of the Euro-Atlantic area, irrespective of the bastion being distinguished by its disobedience within the past period.      

The Armenian Cause was, is and will be a powerful lever against Turkey in the hands of the West, but Turkey managed and will manage to  successfully neutralize its fatal consequences, as long as Armenia and the South Caucasus are the Russian zones of high influence as a whole.  In this situation, for the Euro-Atlantic community Turkey remains the most viable factor in confronting Russia in the region. For this reason as well the Euro-Atlantic community never brings the pressure of the Armenian Cause on Turkey to a critical level.

Deadlock instead of the gap

In the near future a change of the present state of affairs and correlation of forces, which will also change the motives of the involved entities, is not seen. Accordingly, critical developments in the sense of Armenian-Turkish reconciliation prospects are less likely. Nevertheless, currently two vectors are outlined, in which new developments might result in the new situation.  

We are talking about the negotiations over Iran's nuclear program and the negotiation process for the resolution of Artsakh conflict. The final disagreement of the West with Iran may become the start of changes in the correlation of forces in the South Caucasus. However, this process generally does not have a potential for quick solutions and its expansion, even if successful, is a long-term problem.

The events seem to be developing in the new light in the process of Artsakh conflict resolution. Azerbaijan promulgated an indirect proposal addressed to Russia. Baku has been declaring that it will consider the issue of joining the Eurasian Economic Union, if the Artsakh conflict is resolved. The proposal made by Azerbaijan is more than clear. If Moscow compels Armenia to make territorial concessions, then Azerbaijan might join the EEU. It may also leave an impact on the Armenian-Turkish relations, where Armenia's territorial concession in the process of Artsakh conflict is a precondition put forward by Turkey. On April 24, the Prime Minister of Turkey Ahmet Davutoglu made a statement that Ankara was ready to open the Armenian-Turkish border provided that Armenia would return at least one region to Azerbaijan. Russia did not respond directly to Azerbaijan’s indirect proposal, but announced  that resolution of Artsakh conflict continued to be one of the priorities of the foreign policy for Russia.

After freezing the Armenian-Turkish protocols, Moscow, Washington and Brussels made a statement that relating the Armenian-Turkish relations to Artsakh conflict is unacceptable. Nevertheless, Turkey continues to link these two issues. This circumstance aggravates the desperate and deadlock situation, as suchlike resolution is unacceptable for Armenia in principle and is not negotiable.

 The deadlock became characteristic of the regional developments of the South Caucasus in general.

Normalization of the Armenian-Turkish relations and the Armenian-Turkish rapprochement could become a significant step towards overcoming the South-Caucasus deadlock. The 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide was in some sense a significant possibility that could lead Turkey to the conclusion that international problems could be significantly reduced if in the resolution of the Armenian Cause Ankara came down to the necessity of dialogue with Armenia. The matter is not that Turkey must rush to come to an agreement with Armenia after some one-two recognitions. The matter is that the logic of dealing with the Armenian Cause must be changed. Armenia should be the first to take interest in it, bringing to equal and fair process of normalization of relations with Turkey through it. 

But Russia’s high influence on Armenia leads to the fact that Turkey prefers restraining the Armenian Cause rather through Russia than through the dialogue with Armenia.

In this context, the statement by the U.S. Ambassador to Armenia Richard Mills addressed to the Armenian society and official Yerevan on cutting grant programs for reconciliation between Armenia and Turkey a few days later after April 24 perhaps witnesses the disappointment of the West.  It was a signal that the US sees no prospect to practically think about the future of the Armenian-Turkish reconciliation under the current terms of correlation of regional forces.

The current situation has two key demotivators for Moscow. Formation of grounds to bring the issue of reconsideration of the Russian-Turkish Treaty to the international agenda is impermissible on the one hand and opening of the Armenian-Turkish border divided and created in compliance with the Russian-Turkish Treaty is impermissible on the other, because opening of the border and the Turkish-Armenian reconciliation may become an eradicating factor of military and political supremacy Russia over Armenia. Thus, the prospect of the Armenian-Turkish relations is in the Russian-Turkish reliable hands, with Forget-Me-Not sometimes “attached” thereto for comforting Armenia and the Armenians.

Each one in its place to combine the future

The factor of consolation is important for the purpose of blocking the public consciousness in Armenia regarding the issue of the Armenian-Turkish relations within the emotional framework and not turning the issue into a subject of a serious political discourse. The Armenia Cause is a resource for Armenia, and like any other resource, it also needs to be managed. The efficiency of management is also conditioned by the existence of public opinion. When the public opinion on the most important foreign policy issue is blocked mostly within the stereotypes and emotional perceptions, then the society itself becomes manageable.

The point is that the world is changing constantly, sometimes quickly and sometimes slowly.  Hence, the issues, which do not have single solution, also undergo constant changes. The Armenian Cause and the issue of the Armenian-Turkish relations in this context do not have single solutions and are subject to the irrepressible process of global changes. It requires constant updating of the basic Armenian approaches for the purpose of being always prepared to the broader changes.

Moreover, the Turkish society has the same problem, the opinion of which in terms of the historical aspect, present and past issues of the Armenian-Turkish relations is also blocked.  Turkey needs normalization of relations with Armenia not only to get rid of the constant international pressures. Reconciliation and normalization of relations with Armenia is the road of the Turkish society to the leading civilization. And now that the clash of civilizations is escalating in the world, the state of being cut off from the leading civilization is a serious economic, political and security problem for any society.

In that sense, the societies of Armenia and Turkey have similar problems and it is very important to have the public process in parallel with the political one. At the same time, the problem has reached a point where it becomes apparent that the social mutual communication is a necessary and important mechanism the efficiency of which is, however, insufficient.

To achieve results in it own area is currently a problem for societies. Keeping the mutual communication is very important, but the societies have much more to do each in their places, rather than in communication with each other: that is, Turkey must change Turkey's civil society and Armenia must change Armenia's civil society. Doing so will change the prospect of the Armenian-Turkish relations, the history will find its fair calm and peace and the mutual future will be found. 


Armenian genocide : recognition and reparations


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