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Reflections on April 24


Now that some time has passed since the commemoration events held in Istanbul, I can finally freely post some photos and also part of the journal I was keeping at the time.

Firstly, I should say that the events planned by Project 2015 were phenomenal. They were brilliantly organized and executed. The organizers were gracious and caring to all the attendees, and they were well prepared for the days’ events. I unfortunately was not in Istanbul to attend the legendary memorial concert on April 22 featuring Onnik and Ara Dinkjian among other fine musicians, but from what I understand it was a moving performance (and apparently is on YouTube).

It was my first trip to Istanbul, and it was without a doubt one of the greatest adventures of my life. As you’ll see in photos I will post soon, Istanbul is a colorful, dynamic city where nothing seems to be impossible. Although I primarily spent all my time there in the Beyoglu district  and also the Golden Horn, I felt a peculiar, indescribable bond with the city, as if I had been away for several decades. For many years I vowed to never set foot in Turkey, not until the government recognized the Armenian Genocide. But some time ago I started getting over that. I realized that regardless of anything, Turkey–Western Armenia–is the home of my ancestors, and whether the Turks acknowledge the genocide or not, my roots are still there. That land is awaiting me.

I did not feel that there was anything relevant for me personally in being in Yerevan for the 24th. Nothing compelled me to march up Tsisternakaberd once again, droopy tulips in hand. The centennial was an event, it was a milestone, and for countless others like me, something had to be done differently this time around. I had heard one argument that by choosing to commemorate the centennial in Istanbul people were looking back in time instead of forward. I disagree. There was no other place on earth more symbolic for holding Armenian Genocide commemoration events than Istanbul.

Below are my notes recorded at the end of that day.

April 24, 2015

The day was an emotional one. It wasn’t depressing for me, however. Perhaps that’s because I was caught up in the shock of being here.

Yesterday as I debarked the airplane at Ataturk Airport a strange thought came to my head — was I home now? This musing was ironic since I had arrived from Yerevan, my home for 10 years. It’s where my children were born. But my roots are in Anatolia, not the South Caucasus. So was I home? Does it matter that I have no family ties to Constantinople? How does my identity as an American factor into this?

This question was reinforced by other feelings, emotions that I wanted to subdue yet they were there, cacophonous in the soul but somehow latent. It started late in the evening and continued this morning. I contemplated that I was looking for a connection with my past in the wrong place all these years. It’s as if I was deceiving myself. My ancestral home is indeed Anatolia. It’s not Yerevan, it’s not anywhere in the Armenian republic. I still feel the need to go home. Yegheki is waiting. Sousoury is waiting. Urfa is waiting. These places are all expecting me, I sense it, I can even taste it. I’m almost there. I’m looking for the right time to go, with the supportive companionship I will undoubtedly need to have. I can’t take that trip home alone, not the first time there.

It was a full day of visiting historic locations from mid-morning to late afternoon, from the site where Gomidas Vartabed once resided in Istanbul (the original building having been raised decades ago), to the jailhouse where the arrested intellectuals were detained (which is now called the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Art) to the Haydarpasa train station via ferry from where these same intellectuals were sent by railcar to their doom.

At 6:30 pm I set out for the site that is sanctioned for the protest adjacent to Taksim Square on Istiklal Street, but I decided to bypass it and walk up Tarlabasi Street instead, then left onto Zambak. At the Zambak-Istiklal intersection I met a barricade of police. Men and women in full riot gear were on the sidelines, preparing for the worst. There was a rumbling chant in the distance coming from far down Istiklal Street. What appeared to be hundreds of people (close to 5000 protesters assembled that evening) were already gathered for the protest but there was no way of getting to them; the policeman told me the area was “closed.” I walked all the way around the block via a side street I luckily managed to discover only to be told on Taksim Square that the area was blocked off—the same secure police barrier was there as well. I told a policeman that I wanted to join my friends, that I was an Armenian. He told me to go back to the other side, where I had just been. I rushed back, weaving in and out of the chain of random pedestrians strolling about, clueless of the protest that was about to formally start. When I finally returned the chants were now louder because marchers entered the protest area walking right past me. For a moment I stood in fear thinking that Kemalists had managed to enter the area sanctioned for the protest. Then I saw the placards that people were holding and I was relieved. The signs told us not to forget Sevag Balikci, the soldier serving in the Turkish military who was murdered on April 24, 2011. They demanded that the genocide be admitted. I saw familiar faces, close friends nearby. There was a call and response method to the chanting. The power it transmitted was overpowering, exhilarating. It was unlike any protest I have ever participated in—the emotions, the intensity of the moment, the energy transmitted from person to person as if a rolling wave in a calm sea. The chanting continued for several minutes before the mass sit-in protest officially began. Thousands sat on the brick pavement, listening to speeches being read in Turkish, Armenian and English. Amongst us were Turks, Armenians from Istanbul and across the Diaspora, French, Darfuri. Occasionally recordings of spiritual music performed with modern arrangements were played on the loudspeakers. The mood was solemn; I discerned one woman in particular holding back tears.

I wanted to weep but I couldn’t. The chants of the oppositional anti-Armenian protests in the distance kept breaking the mood to mourn. I yearned to weep for my great-grandfather Nishan Guetchudian, who never watched his daughter Clara grow up. There are no photos of him, no traces. It’s as if he never existed. I wanted to imagine my grandfather Hagop surviving on the streets of Aleppo, compelled to eat weeds, picking through gravel and dirt in search of nails or anything made of metal to sell to a blacksmith so he could buy a loaf of bread—or perhaps two loaves, one being a distraction for the dozens of other starving children hovering around him, begging for a morsel. I wanted to imagine how infant Lusine Mahakian, comforted by her mother and her siblings managed to flee Urfa for Syria, sheltered from time to time by acquaintances. But I can’t. How can anyone possibly fathom having to survive an inferno of devastation, slaughter, rot, famine and filth? How do you begin to imagine it all? It’s not possible. You can stare all you want at the photographs of decapitated heads piled up in pyramids of evil, bewildered women roaming while clutching their babes, the gallows where dozens of devastated men sway, emaciated, decomposing children laid tightly beside one another in rows that never seem to end. It’s simply not possible for us to in any way to visualize that hell as if we were there in the moment. And we are better for that. Our martyrs would not want us to imagine it. One hundred years later they beckon us not to forget them, while imploring us to move on.

Haydarpasa protest
Haydarpasa protest
In front of the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Art, previously known as the gate to hell a century back
Taksim Square Protest, additional photos below

IMG_20150424_190344 IMG_20150424_190339 IMG_20150424_190016



House Panel Condemns Armenian Genocide

US CapitolUPDATED–Well, history is repeating itself–the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee once again voted to condemn the Armenian Genocide on Thursday, and the Turks are unsurprisingly furious. The last time this happened was 2007, but the measure never reached the House floor for obvious reasons.

The New York Times quoted Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan saying “We condemn this bill that denounces the Turkish nation of a crime that it has not committed.” And he recalled the Ambassador to the US, Namik Tan.

The question now is whether the resolution will reach the House floor anytime soon. That’s not clear as of yet, but it might very well happen. And the bill could very well pass this time around. Legislators are getting fed up with Turkey’s repeated denials, and it’s becoming more difficult for them to speak out against Armenian Genocide recognition, especially with all the publicity–60 Minutes just did a piece on the Genocide.  Congressmen can’t afford to look like hypocrites in front of their constituents on this issue. People know more and more about history these days, and they’re going to expect their congressman to understand and accept historical facts.

People are probably wondering whether President Barack Obama will actually say the “G-word” this year. It could happen. Some believe that Washington may be trying to pressure Turkey to move forward with the protocols by properly recognizing the Armenian Genocide. After that happens, Turkey is likely to fess up and go through with opening the border, despite its reservations.

I doubt that Turkish officials want to look like absolute hypocrites by walking away from the protocols at this point. The protocols are already up for discussion in the Armenian parliament. They already look bad by demanding that a resolution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict be resolved first before the shared border with Armenia is opened. Naturally the international community (with the exception of Azerbaijan, of course) thinks that doesn’t make much sense. Then again, Ankara is too proud to let anyone boss them around, including Washington. Nevertheless, in the end Ankara can’t do much about Genocide resolutions and condemnations. The Genocide has been recognized by national legislative bodies around the world, and that’s not about to stop. Sweden is also about to bring up the topic for discussion in parliament soon.

Even if the House ends up passing a resolution accepting the Genocide, Turkey won’t be able to do anything about it because it needs America too much militarily and financially. In 2009, Turkey spent $7 billion on military equipment that it bought from the US aerospace and defense industry. It has already invested heavily in the $300 billion F-35 fighter program and intends to buy several planes. Turkey also needs the US for bailouts as has been the case time and time again whenever its currency is heavily devalued because of financial blunders. At the start of the decade 1 million Turkish lira equaled one dollar at one point, and the US was there to pick up the pieces of a shattered economy.

So will Turkey sever relations with the US and go gun shopping elsewhere? No way. Europe is not about to sell them weapons and is weary about accepting Turkey into the European Union. Israel could accommodate Turkey with arms purchases but their relations have been rocky lately. Not everyone in the world community is happy with Erdogan, he doesn’t have a good reputation at the moment for being a blatant hothead.

Anyway, things are becoming more and more interesting. Incidentally, on March 2 the Washington Post published a scathing commentary about the resolution written by Henri J. Barkey, in which he sharply criticizes both Armenians and Turks for their “cynicism,” as he perceives. He lambastes Armenia for fostering its good relations with Iran, a view that is unreasonable not to mention unpractical, especially for a professor of international relations at Lehigh University who should know better to understand that Armenia has no alternative.

Incidentally, there’s another interesting take on the Armenian Genocide resolution by New York Times columnist Nicholas D. Kristof. As much as I respect him as a journalist, and I am an admitted fan of his column, I can’t say I agree with him on his stance, although he does make some valid points.

This resolution indeed needed to be passed, now more than ever. There’s absolutely no question in my mind. Turkey simply has to acknowledge and publicly repent the inflicted terror of its past so it can indeed move on to reconciliation efforts with Armenia. Logic and human morality dictate this.

Protocols For Relations Between Armenia and Turkey, Pt. 2

Below is the full text of the second protocol slated to be signed by authorities from Turkey and Armenia in five weeks time. Many of these points seem to be repeated from the first protocol, which I criticized in my previous post. My comments appear in italics.

Protocol on Development of Relations between the Republic of Armenia and the Republic of Turkey.

The Republic of Armenia and the Republic of Turkey.

Guided by the Protocol on the Establishment of Diplomatic Relations between the Republic of Armenia and the Republic of Turkey signed on the same day,

Considering the perspectives of developing their bilateral relations, based on confidence and respect to their mutual interests,

Determining to develop and enhance their bilateral relations, in the political, economic, energy, transport, scientific, technical, cultural issues and other fields, based on common interest of both countries,

Supporting the promotion of the cooperation between the two countries, in the international and regional organi9zations, especially within the framework of the UN, the OSCE, the Council of Europe, the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council and the BSEC,

Taking into account the common purpose of both States to cooperate for enchancimg [stet] regional stability and security for ensuring the democratic and sustainable development of the region,

Reiterating their commitment to the peaceful settlement of regional and international disputes and the conflicts on the basis of the norms and principles of law,

Reaffirming their readiness to actively support the actions of eth international community in addressing common security threats to the region and world security and stability, such as terrorism, transnational organized crimes, illicit trafficking of drugs and arms,

1. Agree to open the common border within 2 months after the entry into force of this Protocol,

What is the rush? Let’s assume that the protocols are signed and ratified by the Armenian and Turkish parliaments and that Armenians and Turks are all happy about it. Why should the border open so soon? What about the logistics behind opening it, trade regulations, legal issues, transportation fees and so forth? First and foremost, diplomatic relations would need to be formalized, embassies would have to be established and staffed, administrative matters would need to be planned and enacted. There is a lot of work to do beforehand. How much can realistically be accomplished within only eight weeks?

2. Agree to conduct regular political consultations between the Ministries of Foreign Affairs of the two countries;

implement a dialogue on the historical dimension with the aim to restore mutual confidence between the two nations, including an impartial scientific examination of the historical records and archives to define existing problems and formulate recommendations;

make the best possible use of existing transport, communications and energy infrastructure and networks between the two countries, and to undertake measures in this regard;

develop the bilateral legal framework in order to foster cooperation between the two countries;

cooperate in the fields of science and education by encouraging relations between the appropriate institutions as well as promoting the exchange of specialists and students, and act with the aim of preserving the cultural heritage of both sides and launching common cultural projects;

establish consular cooperation in accordance with the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations of 1963 in order to provide necessary assistance and protection to the citizens of the two countries;

take concrete measures in order to develop trade, tourism and economic cooperation between the two countries;

engage in a dialogue and reinforce their cooperation on environmental issues.

The first paragraph of this point is naturally the most controversial of both protocols. It calls for establishing a joint historical commission of Turkish and Armenian “experts,” whether they will be historians or people from other professional backgrounds is not clear, which will essentially determine what exactly took place in the beginning of the 20th century, in the spirit of goodwill, forging friendly relations, and so forth. In other words, they will deliberate whether the Armenian Genocide actually happened by studying documents while sipping Turkish coffee I assume. President Sarkisian has been putting a spin on this issue, claiming that the Armenian Genocide is a fact that cannot be disputed, but it wouldn’t hurt to discuss the topic with Turkey in a gesture of good will. This information has been circulating in the press in recent months so it’s nothing new.

For this very point alone both protocols should be rejected. The Armenian authorities should not even bother returning to the table. There’s enough debate going around in public circles both in Armenia and the diaspora finding this point to be unacceptable. It defies logic for the Armenian government to agree on deliberating with anyone about whether the events of 1915-1923 constituted genocide. If Armenia is claiming that the genocide topic is hands off, then it naturally should not discuss the issue with denialists. Genocide happened, it was committed by the Turks against the Armenians, and this has been accepted time and time again by historians, including Turkish ones (who are in exile because of it). Twenty nations have acknowledged the Genocide. American congressmen have been advocating for decades that the Armenian Genocide be recognized by the US executive and legislative branches. What is there to talk about?

3. Agree on the establishment of an intergovernmental bilateral commission which shall comprise separate sub-commissions for the prompt implementation of the commitments mentioned in operational paragraph 2 above in this Protocol. To prepare the working modalities of the intergovernmental commission and its sub-commissions, a working group headed by the two Ministers of Foreign Affairs shall be created 2 months after the day following the entry into force of this Protocol. Within 3 months after the entry into force of this Protocol, these modalities shall be approved at ministerial level. The intergovernmental commission shall meet for the first time immediately after the adoption of the said modalities. The sub-commissions shall start their work at the latest 1 month thereafter and they shall work continuously until the completion of their mandates. The timetable and elements agreed by both sides for the implementation of this Protocol are mentioned in the annexed document, which is integral part of this Protocol.

This Protocol and the Protocol on the Establishment of Diplomatic Relations between the Republic of Armenia and the Republic of Turkey shall enter into force on the same day, i.e. on the first day of the first month following the exchange of instruments of ratification.

Signed in (place) on (date) in Armenian, Turkish and English authentic copies in duplicate. In case of divergence of interpretation, the English text shall prevail.

For the Republic of Armenia

For the Republic of Turkey

There is also an “annexed document” indicating a timeline of events that are to take place after the protocols are signed, the first being the opening of the border. The border should open within a two-month period after having signed the protocols, even before the commission and various sub-commissions are formed to work out the logistics of opening he border, which is dangerous and totally irresponsible in my opinion. Then again, the intentions of these protocols are dubious to begin with.

Summing up, no further discussions about establishing diplomatic relations should be held at all until Turkey recognizes that it committed genocide against the Armenian people. You cannot have mutual trust and understanding without resolving this issue once and for all from the start, and it is preposterous to believe that this issue should be separated from deliberations to normalize relations. The Armenian Genocide issue is a political one now, it is not something for historians to deliberate on any longer—that’s already been done. Turkey has to understand this and repent for its unleashed calamity, then discussions about understanding and mutual trust can be held. If these protocols are signed using this verbiage, there will never be any way of pressuring Turkey to recognize the Armenian Genocide again.

Secondly, the border between Armenia and Turkey cannot ever be opened before the Nagorno-Karabagh issue is finally resolved. It would be irresponsible for the Armenian leadership to endorse the initiatives outlined in both protocols, not to mention an absolute foreign policy disaster, before a peace agreement is signed. They are two distinct, entirely separate issues that cannot be lumped together to establish peace in the region. Armenia was at war with Azerbaijan in the early 1990s, not with Turkey. And Armenia does not demonstrate antagonism towards Turkey, not when trips to Antalya are promoted on billboards in Yerevan and Turkish goods are purchased in tons per week. The two issues cannot be combined into an all-inclusive package deal for developing relations with Armenia’s neighbors, they need to be negotiated upon and resolved separately and conclusively.

Armenians worldwide cannot let these protocols be approved in five weeks. Armenia has a lot to lose in these protocols, first and foremost the satisfaction of Armenian Genocide recognition by Turkey. Armenia cannot refuse its right to claim lands by accepting the current border as being an absolute line of demarcation. Once these documents are signed, there can never be any further discussion about the return of historic Armenian lands, before the topic has even been opened.

Millions of Armenians since the dawn of the 20th century have struggled for a set of principles and ideals that are well known as the Armenian Cause. It has been fought in countless forums and stages—from the battlefront at Sardarabad in 1918 to classrooms in Massachusetts where students learn about the Armenian Genocide as part of the school curriculum. Several thousands died during the Nagorno-Karabagh war to secure the self-determination of Armenians living there. Activists worldwide still campaign for realizing the cause, mostly by persuading governments and various official or non-governmental bodies of influence to recognize the Armenian Genocide as a factual, historic event. There are also discussions now and then about making valid claims for the return of Western Armenian lands controlled by Turkey to this day. Their efforts have been fantastic and the Armenians have enjoyed much success in having their case heard globally, especially in the US and Europe in recent years. All of that is about to go down the drain. With the signing of these protocols the Armenian Cause will be effectively dead for the reasons I have already mentioned in my comments.

Armenians have to decide what they want out of their own future as a nation in pursuit of receiving due justice for past tragedies that it had been made to endure time and time again. At present, the fate of the Armenian nation is in its own hands, and it is a make or break moment. The cause cannot die, not when we still have the chance to save it.

Protocols For Relations Between Armenia and Turkey

unityTo generate more discussion about the protocols that are meant to normalize relations between Armenian and Turkey, which are to be signed in about five weeks time then ratified by both Turkish and Armenian parliaments, I have taken it upon myself to list the points of the first protocol and criticize each one. The opinions expressed here are simply my own and do not represent the viewpoints of any political organization, public interest group, or media source, including Hetq Online which sponsors this blog.

What I am writing here is based simply on what I know, keeping in mind that I am certainly not a political analyst and have no background in political science. If you agree with what I write or find that I am outright mistaken, explain your views in the comments section. Also persuade others to read this post–the more discussion about this topic, the better.

I want to add that preconditions on the Turkish side do in fact exist in the first protocol. If you read the text carefully you will understand this.

Below is the text of the first protocol with my comments below each point in italics.

Protocol on the Establishment of Diplomatic Relations between the Republic of Armenia and the Republic of Turkey.

The Republic of Armenia and the Republic of Turkey.

Desiring to establish good neighbourly relations and to develop bilateral cooperation in the political, economic, cultural and other fields for the benefit of their peoples, as envisaged in the Protocol on the development of relations signed on the same day.

“Good neighbourly relations” cannot be established between the two republics until the Turkish government and the people of Turkey officially recognize the Armenian Genocide. This must be a precondition of Armenia; it is not possible to forge relations with Turkey without this stipulation. You cannot trust your neighbor until he admits to having committed wrongdoing, namely committing mass murder. It defies logic for Armenia to form friendly relations with Turkey on the basis of trust, mutual understanding and whatever other nonsense if Turkey will not recognize the Genocide, it’s very simple. Furthermore, Turkey has no right to exercise its influence on Armenian foreign policy, especially on the resolution of the Nagorno-Karabagh dispute. This point and others below suggest that it would.

Regarding economic relations–they already exist in one-sided trade. Turkish imports are everywhere in the Armenian marketplace, despite the fact that formal diplomatic relations do not exist. One of the main reasons for opening the border is to develop trade. Unfortunately, Armenia has nothing of interest to offer Turkey. Armenia’s industries have been crippled since independence, so it has nothing to produce that Turkey could ever want. Armenian importers are thus looking for a shorter route so it will not have to rely on Georgia’s roads. However, there are no guarantees that the customs fees which Turkey will impose will not be higher than those paid at the Georgian border. There’s no telling how prices of imports will be affected. They can’t get much cheaper than they already are, that’s for certain. Even the price of European imports that enter Armenia via Turkey can’t possibly decrease—they aren’t that unaffordable for the middle class to begin with.

Let’s not forget the economic conditions of the rural parts of Armenia. Most areas outside Yerevan have seen little to no development since the fall of the Soviet Union. This is not the consequence of a closed border, rather it is the failure of the Armenian government to stimulate investment outside of Yerevan. It has nothing to do with cold relations between Armenia and Turkey. I don’t think the general financial situation of Armenia is as stable as the government makes it out to be, and I am sure that many others would tend to agree. Certainly the industrial sector is not up to par. Armenia seems to have plenty of power to sell Turkey, but a deal was already brokered in the beginning of the year before the framework was agreed upon in April. Armenia should not even consider opening the border until it can stand strong financially on its own two feet first. As things stand today it is still crippled and it will remain so even if the border is opened.

Referring to their obligations under the Charter of the United Nations, the Helsinki Final Act, the Charter of Paris for a New Europe,

The Turkish republic must fulfill its outline of prerequisites in full so that it can be allowed the privilege of joining the European Union. One of those stipulations is for Turkey to recognize the Armenian Genocide. Twenty nations worldwide (including, ironically enough, Switzerland, which mediated these talks and the formation of the protocols) have recognized the Genocide. So has the European Parliament. So no protocols should be signed until the Armenian Genocide is recognized.

Here is a quote from Rep. Adam Schiff a democrat from California, who was the principal writer of the most recent Armenian Genocide resolution that went before Congress, addressing his concerns about the protocols: “True reconciliation between the Armenian and Turkish peoples will occur when Turkey acknowledges the genocide that was committed by the Ottoman Empire against Armenians from 1915-1923.”If US lawmakers believe this, why aren’t Armenian parliamentarians thinking along the same lines?

Reconfirming their commitment, in their bilateral and international relations, to respect and ensure respect for the principles of equality, sovereignty, non-intervention in internal affairs of other states, territorial integrity and inviolability of frontiers,

Turkey has no right to expect or insist on “respect and ensure respect for the principles of equality, sovereignty, non-intervention in internal affairs of other states, territorial integrity and inviolability of frontiers” until it gets its own state of affairs in order. Turkey has been persecuting the Kurdish people (who are considered “Mountain Turks” by the Turkish government) for decades—perhaps centuries–and continues to do so. Turkey in its previous incarnation has also repressed Assyrians, Greeks and countless other minorities under its exercise of power and influence in the region.

Regarding territorial integrity, let’s start with resolving the question of land reparations to Armenians who were driven out from their homes early in the 20th century. Mutual respect between the two nations should start there.

Also, assuming that diplomatic relations are forged I find it hard to believe that Turkey will not stick its nose in Armenian politics. Turkey will need to ensure that its business and other interests—whatever those may be– are perpetually protected in Armenia, and it will need a government that is cooperative. Which means it will always pressure the Armenian leadership to play along or else. I don’t want to imagine what that ultimatum could be.

Bearing in mind the importance of the creation and maintenance of an atmosphere of trust and confidence between the two countries that will contribute to the strengthening of peace, security and stability of the whole region, as well as being determined to refrain from the threat of the use of force, to promote the peaceful settlement of disputes, and to protect human rights and fundamental freedoms,

Again, there can be no “atmosphere of trust and confidence” unless the Turkish government recognizes the Armenian Genocide and addresses the issue of land reparations. In terms of being able “to promote the peaceful settlement of disputes, and to protect human rights and fundamental freedoms,” Turkey has a lot of work to do on that front having oppressed ethnic and religious minorities, oppositionists, journalists, writers, historians and so on for decades.

Let’s again remember the Kurdish issue. Most recently,Turkey has demonstrated its self-given right to cross the Iraqi border on more than one occasion in an effort to stamp out suspected Kurdish separatists under America’s watch. There is a considerable Yezidi Kurd presence in Armenia today—the Yezidis comprise the largest ethnic minority group in Armenia. Suppose Turkish intelligence received information that Kurdish separatists may be hiding in Armenia, for instance somewhere in the Aragatsotn region where Yezidi communities thrive. According to this point, Turkey will be able to very well exercise its right to maintaining “security and stability of the whole region” by blanket bombing scores of communities as it sees fit to eradicate separatist elements. Turkey has always resorted to using force against the Kurds in the past while Western nations turned a blind eye, thereby repeatedly refusing to intervene and prevent such actions. There’s no reason to believe that Turkey won’t do the same across its border with Armenia. The last thing Armenia needs is to be under the political and possibly internationally perceived protective influence of Turkey in the years subsequent to establishing relations.

Confirming the mutual recognition of the existing border between the two countries as defined relevant treaties of international law,

The current border as defined by the Treaty of Kars in 1921 should not be accepted by the government of Republic of Armenia as being a viable line of demarcation that is in the long-term geostrategic interests of Armenia and its economic development. Turkey must first decide how it will return historic Armenian lands to the control of the Armenian nation first. Then a dedicated, Armenian controlled land route must be established to the Black Sea. That route should preferably lie within Armenia’s borders. Armenia cannot have long-term economic or geostrategic stability without protected, dedicated internationally recognized land access to the Black Sea. The current border was negotiated by the Russians and Turks in 1921 without the territorial integrity of Armenia taken into consideration. The Armenian side was essentially forced by the Bolsheviks to sign the treaty. The deliberation for redrawing the borders must happen now since another chance in the short-term future will not arise again. The Armenian side must not accept the current border as being absolute; there should be discussion at some point about the return of the lands lying across the border to Armenian control, and this point should allow for that leeway. Let’s start with the return of the Kars district first.

The way things stand now, Armenia is much better off with a closed border simply because it is not wholly reliant on Turkey economically speaking. One-sided trade between the two countries is flourishing quite nicely via Georgia, and there’s no stopping it. So I don’t understand what this point has to do with the border opening. This point is clearly a precondition on Turkey’s part.

Emphasizing their decisions to open the common border,

The border is already open, albeit virtually. Armenians have full access to Turkish goods as things stand. Armenia’s economy is holding steady, despite reports issued by the Central Bank of Armenia that the GDP has shrunk by umpteen percentage points. So one has to wonder what exactly the point of having an open border is all about. If it is to promote additional economic growth in Armenia, that can happen only when Armenia is strong enough on its own two feet, which it is not. Most of the country is underdeveloped because of a lack of investment. Perhaps the Armenian government foresees that Turkish investors will develop the regions of Armenia that need help the most. In that case, Turkish businessmen will need to buy up whatever Armenia industry exists and build it up further (or else dismantle it, forcing Armenian laborers to migrate to Turkey or elsewhere). It will also need the land to do so, thus countless hectares would need to be bought as well. In the process Armenian businesses could be bought out, and Armenian oligarchs could easily fall under the control of their wealthier Turkish counterparts. Turkish foodstuffs will undoubtedly hit Armenian store shelves as well for the first time. I can’t see how Armenian producers of consumer goods will be able to compete. What about tourism? Check that off as well—Armenians are already going to Antalya in droves for vacationing. An open border will make visits to Western Armenian sites less problematic from Yerevan for sure. But how does that help Armenia?

Again, the border has to be redrawn before it’s opened. The border as it exists today is not in Armenia’s long-term geostrategic interests, there are no concrete indicators to show that Armenia will benefit from an opened border.  On the contrary, an opened border will not boost Armenia’s economy any further, but will only harm it in the long term. Eventually Armenia would solely become dependent on the Turkish economy with an open border. All it would need is a recession to hit and Armenia’s socioeconomic development will flounder as a result. Turkey could always close the border again if it ever feels the need to for political reasons, just as it did back in 1993 when showing support for Azerbaijan during the Nagorno-Karabagh war. There is no reason to trust Turkey unless Armenia can manage without it. And the only way Armenia could do so is to have dedicated, controlled access to the Black Sea.

Reiterating their commitment to refrain from pursuing any policy incompatible with the spirit of good neighbourly relations,

Anyone who has read a single book about Armenian history will know that historically there have always been rocky relations between the Turks and Armenians. Troubles didn’t start in the 20th century naturally; they’ve been going on for centuries, ever since the Seljuk Turks first showed their faces in these parts. The Turks have always pursued anti-Armenian policies “incompatible with the spirit of good neighbourly relations.” They still do. Every time a resolution to formerly recognize the Armenian Genocide pops up for a vote in the US Congress, it is always shot down at the last minute under Turkish pressure. A row between Turkey and France ensued after France accepted the Armenian Genocide a few years back. Economic relations were soured for six months, then everything went back to normal.

The Turks don’t give a damn about the Armenians, they never did and they never will. Opened borders on the western and eastern Armenian frontiers will facilitate easier road transportation between Azerbaijan and Turkey, who are soul brothers in propagating hate and aversion against Armenians. An open border is not going to smooth things over. It’s just good for business, but against the long-term interests of Armenia economically, politically, and especially, culturally. After all, Armenians are prone to assimilate, with many born in the US being proof-positive of that. I’ve heard South American communities are also struggling with assimilation. Why would it be different on Armenian soil?

Condemning all forms of terrorism, violence and extremism irrespective of their cause, pledging to refrain from encouraging and tolerating such acts and to cooperate against them,

This is perhaps the most ironic, outright hypocritical point in this protocol. Turkey must cease repressive actions against all peoples, citizens or otherwise, living within its borders first and foremost. They include but are not limited to ethnic and religious minorities, oppositionists, journalists (have we forgotten Hrant Dink?), writers, historians and so on and so forth. In this point Turkey must specifically be kept in check that if relations are forged and the border is opened, its military will have no legal mandate to cross Armenia’s borders or air space for conducting military operations. Such a stipulation must be endorsed by Western powers as well as Russia. Armenia cannot be a party to any kind of military aggression against suspected Kurdish separatists, no matter where they may be hiding. Turkey must set a precedent that it is willing to condemn” all forms of terrorism, violence and extremism irrespective of their cause” on its own soil before Armenians can trust it, plain and simple. Turkey can start by recognizing the Armenian Genocide.

Affirming their willingness to chart a new pattern and course for their relations on the basis of common interests, goodwill and in pursuit of peace, mutual understanding and harmony,

Once again, Turkey must recognize the Armenian Genocide and be prepared to give both financial and land reparations to the Armenian nation in the spirit of “goodwill and in pursuit of peace, mutual understanding and harmony.” The inclusion of this point in the protocol is actually surreal, not to mention outright absurd. If Turkey refuses to accept that it committed genocide and cannot guarantee that it will not commit acts of terror against the Armenian nation ever again, what concept of harmony and understanding is this point referring to? This point defies logic and the reality that exists today. Decades of Armenian ill-sentiment and hostility towards Turks will not evaporate with this juvenile article that only mocks the angst that genocide survivors and their descendants have been made to endure for 94 years. Who are the Turks kidding here?

Agree to establish diplomatic relations as of the date of the entry into force of this Protocol accordance with the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations of 1961 and to exchange Diplomatic Missions.

This Protocol and the Protocol on the Development of Bilateral Relations between the Republic of Armenia and the Republic of Turkey shall enter into force on the same day, i.e. on the first day of the first month following of instruments of ratification.

Diplomatic relations cannot be established between Armenia and Turkey at this juncture for the reasons indicated in my comments concerning each point of this protocol.

Signed in (place) on (date) in Armenian, Turkish and English languages authentic copies in duplicate. In case of divergence of interpretation, the English text shall prevail.

For the Republic of Armenia

For the Republic of Turkey

It is obvious that this protocol is meant to thwart Turkey’s internationally anticipated recognition of the Armenian Genocide. By agreeing to these perceived acts of goodwill and cooperation put forth by the Swiss, Turkey is essentially tricking both naïve Armenians and the West that it is sincere in developing lasting, friendly relations with Armenia. I don’t believe that is the case at all. The Turks have always wanted to get rid of the Armenians; that was what they intended to do 94 years ago. But with the border opened, the Turks may finally be able to succeed with Armenian emigration, assimilation and incompetent governance in gear to facilitate their goal.

In the next post I will critique the second protocol and summarize my opinions.