Tag Archives: turkish-armenian protocols

Obama and the ‘G-word’

Obama Meets Erdogan Late Saturday night it was revealed that President Barack Obama failed to use the word “genocide” when addressing Armenian-Americans in his annual presidential address on April 24, Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day. Last year Armenians across the US and around the world were immensely disappointed. This year they are outright outraged, and they have every reason to be.

The text of the address was essentially a copy and paste job from last year’s letter, in which vague terminology and even factually incorrect information was written, along with a transliterated Armenian phrase to illustrate the Armenian Genocide. I read today that the Turks were nevertheless upset by the letter, even though there was really no reason to be since no blame was directly pointed at the Turks, past or present. The letter was written in a way to appease both Armenians and Turks, but indeed it proved to be a complete failure.

Particular disturbing was the following sentence for its irony and deception: “Together, the Turkish and Armenian people will be stronger as they acknowledge their common history and recognize their common humanity.” The “common history” and “common humanity” shared between the Armenians and Turks has always been one of oppression, hatred and brutality. There is no need to present research and cite sources here for anyone to understand that beyond common knowledge. Armenians were always considered second class citizens in the Ottoman Empire and in many ways even in modern Turkey. Today freedom of speech and education for Armenians are suppressed, and they are even being killed for speaking out in public about the genocide (Hrant Dink). Armenian businessmen, community leaders and intellectuals were always scorned in the old days, and when the overwhelming majority of them mysteriously disappeared virtually overnight on April 24, 1915, that marked the beginning of the end of “common humanity.”

There is also this bizarre statement, which appeared just before the one I pointed to above: “I salute the Turks who saved Armenians in 1915 and am encouraged by the dialogue among Turks and Armenians, and within Turkey itself, regarding this painful history.” Indeed, there were Turkish families who hid Armenians from Turkish gendarmes when the death marches, pillaging and raping raged. Yet they were few and far between, and they did virtually nothing (unless I don’t have my facts straight) to demonstrate opposition to government policy. Perhaps President Obama wasn’t briefed of the status of the “dialogue” last week, but something tells me there was no way of him being unaware of the current situation.

This year it became more obvious than ever that guns and money mean infinitely more than morality and honesty. For decades US presidents have refrained from using the “G-word” and although the pass-up was always disappointing to say the least, it was part of State Department policy. US military and strategic ties with Turkey have always been sacred. And now—with two wars waging in Western Asia and a key American air base in Incirlik—the US needs Turkey’s cooperation more than ever.

But this time there was a pertinent, timely issue that had never presented itself before—reconciliation between Turkey and Armenia, two centuries-old foes whose mutual animosities have prevented diplomatic relations from being rekindled since 1993 when Turkey closed the line of demarcation to show solidarity with its Turkic brother nation, Azerbaijan, during the Karakakh war. The US was a main player in brokering the two infamous Turkish-Armenian protocols. Both US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and President Obama worked tirelessly to ensure that they were signed, and even harder to see that they be ratified by both Turkey and Armenia without preconditions. Alas, Turkey could not resist and resumed its insistence that Armenia forget about international recognition of the Armenian Genocide, weaken ties with the Armenian Diaspora, and, even more ridiculous, sign a peace deal pronto with Azerbaijan. Then the president had a tête-à-tête with Prime Minister Erdogan two weeks ago during the nuclear security summit in Washington, D.C. Only days after, Erdogan was reported to have renewed his drive for attaching preconditions before the protocols could be ratified. And then Armenia indefinitely put the protocols on the back burner.

So you have a US presidential administration that has been essentially belittled and undermined by Turkey before the entire world for the sake of guns and money. The US congress was pressing for President Obama to do the right thing this year, and I am sure other world nations were also waiting in anticipation, given the way the recent events have panned out. The entire time during the reconciliation process US State Department officials have been praising Armenia’s cooperation and they even lauded President Serge Sarkisian’s decision to remove the protocols from the National Assembly’s agenda rather than Armenia’s signiture. Concurrently, Turkey the naughty bully had been thumbing its nose at Washington, and Erdogan ultimately got his way.

Given the events of the last 10 days or so, this was certainly the year for the US president to do the right thing, especially after having been defied and essentially mocked by his “friend and ally” before the entire world. There was really no excuse this time, despite the waging wars and the dependence on Turkey. Erdogan and his Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu managed very nicely to look both President Obama and Secretary Clinton like naïve chumps. But it seems they are content with that. In the meantime, the Armenians continue hungrily waiting for justice, with hopes ever fading.

Photo credit: EPA

Armenia Suspends Protocol Ratification Process

FlagsWell, President Serge Sarkisian did it–he suspended the Turkish-Armenian protocol ratification process indefinitely. He pointed out the fact during his televised speech last night that Ankara is simply not ready to devote to ratifying the protocols and forming constructive relations with Armenia.

It makes no sense for Yerevan to continue talking about ratification any longer. However, he was smart to announce that Armenia remains committed to “normalization” and will not withdraw its signature from the protocols, much to the chagrin of some of the opposition parties (one of which several weeks ago conceded that it would indeed go along with the ratification of the protocols assuming Turkey ratified them first–I won’t name which party because it should be obvious).

And what is strange is that the US and France praised him for it. Philip Gordon,  US Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs, today said “We applaud President Sargsyan’s decision to continue to work towards a vision of peace, stability, and reconciliation.”

This obviously means that the US and France–and probably Russia, no word yet about what Moscow thinks–are also not happy with how Turkey has been behaving since the protocols were signed last October, by insisting that ratifying the protocols/opening the border be contingent upon a Nagorno-Karabakh peace settlement in Azerbaijan’s favor. They are also undoubtedly fed up with Turkey causing a scandal every time an international lawmaking body decides to recognize the Armenian Genocide.

The Obama administration has spent a lot of time on the protocols and making sure they not only get signed but are ratified without preconditions from either side. President Obama met with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan for nearly an hour during the arms conference last week and also spoke with President Sarkisian separately, discussing rapprochement between Turkey and Armenia during some of that time. I am sure Erdogan mentioned that he didn’t want President Obama to use the “G-word” on April 24, but no one can say whether the president outright promised he wouldn’t.

Anyway, the point is that Turkey has placed both President Obana and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in a “jack-ass’s place” as the Armenian saying goes. They undoubtedly are not pleased with Ankara’s adamant stance about having a Karabagh peace deal signed first and willingness to compromise, and despite Secretary Clinton’s previous comments that the most recent Armenian Genocide resolution will not make it to the House floor, President Obama may be peeved enough to use the “G-word” as I and millions of other Armenians round the world are hoping for in his April 24 address. The Turks are not going to close the Incirlik air base because they simply can’t defy the US, and fears that Turkey will pull out of contracts to buy new F-35 fighter planes from the US are also unfounded since too much has been invested in the development program by Turkey. The Turks are not about to renege, and they need to buy their Patriot missiles and helicopters from somewhere. In 2009 Turkey bought $7 billion worth of military equipment from the US, and they will likely spend that much this year.

Quite honestly, I will be surprised if President Obama doesn’t use the “G-word” on the 24th. In previous years it was understandable–wars were being raged with Turkey’s support, the Turkish lobby has always been strong, Turkey has always been a valuable NATO ally, and so forth. Now, in light of recent events there doesn’t appear to be any excuse. This year, Turkey had the golden chance to reconcile with Armenia, fully supported by US, Europe and even countries in Asia like Japan, and Ankara blew it. Not one country can say that Armenia is at fault. And Turkey finally has to understand that it must face up to its own history, not to mention play ball with Armenia.

By late tomorrow evening Yerevan time the current official US position on the Genocide issue will be clear. Let’s hope it is pro-Armenian for a change.

Sarkisian, Erdogan Don’t See Eye to Eye

Seems there’s nothing positive that can be said about the Sarkisian-Erdogan meeting in Washington, DC that took place on April 12 on the sidelines of the nuclear security summit hosted by President Obama.

Both leaders have been tight-lipped about their meeting and their own separate sit-downs with President Obama, and there really isn’t a lot of information available regarding what was said. RFE/RL however wrote this:

According to the Turkish daily “Sabah,” Erdogan told Sarkisian that the existing “political atmosphere” does not bode well for their ratification by Turkey’s Grand National Assembly. He blamed it on recent decisions by U.S. and Swedish lawmakers to recognize the 1915 massacres of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire as genocide.

“If the protocols are brought to the agenda of the parliament while U.S. and Swedish parliaments are taking decisions on the issue, they will be rejected,” he reportedly said. “Sabah” also quoted Erdogan as also linking protocol ratification with decisive progress in international efforts to resolve the Karabakh conflict.

Sarkisian, Erdogan Don't See Eye to EyeI think it became clear last autumn when Turkish leaders started insisting that the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict be settled first before the protocols be ratified that Ankara was backtracking from its commitments for establishing formal diplomatic relations. Perhaps they thought that Yerevan was so desperate it would cut a quick and dirty deal with Azerbaijan just to get the Turkish-Armenian border opened, or else they wanted to show just who’s the boss to foreign powers with interests in the region. Lately, the Turks have been indicating that they want direct involvement in the Nagorno-Karabakh peace process and have some role in the Minsk Group. But I don’t understand why Turkey would think that Armenia would unquestionably go along with its preconditions.

Meanwhile, Yerevan is playing hardball, insisting that there is no way worldwide Armenian Genocide recognition efforts can be suppressed. The Armenian leadership is still adamant that no preconditions can be attached to ratifying the protocols, namely regarding the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict resolution. It’s also absurd that Turkey actually thinks Armenia would sever ties with the Armenian Diaspora, its main support base, just because it wants that to happen. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton assured Sarkisian in their meeting on April 13 that the US was still pressing for normalization of relations without preconditions.

Quite honestly, I believe this whole charade between Turkey and Armenia that’s been playing out for well over a year now has been a grand chess match. And eventually, it was going to end in a stalemate. I don’t think Sarkisian really had any intentions to open the border at all costs and by whatever means necessary, as he led many to believe last year. He was simply trying to prove to the world that he was indeed a legitimately elected, relevant president and was willing to appease his neighbors, but not to the point of selling out his nation’s geopolitical and strategic interests. Many in the diaspora and Armenia who were taken aback by the protocols last August, myself included, started to panic. Maybe that’s what Sarkisian wanted–the protests in the diaspora served an effective way to ruffle Turkey’s feathers and see how it would react. And as we remember, it went on the offensive.

Now it’s a question of who is going to look more noble in the eyes of the world when this impasse is declared deadlocked–Erdogan or Sarkisian. President Obama’s address to Armenian-Americans on April 24 will be telling.

Are The Protocols Coming Undone?

Seems that Ankara is not happy with last week’s Armenian Constitutional Court decision regarding the protocols, and they’re letting the whole world know it.

Hetq Online reports the following:

An article in Today’s Zaman, entitled “Normalization with Armenia at risk, says PM Erdogan”, states that during yesterday’s phone call between foreign ministers of the two nations, the Turkish Foreign Mnister Davutoglu told his Armenian counterpart that right after the documents were signed, a public awareness campaign was launched in Turkey and the Protocols were sent to Parliament, whereas Armenia has not yet done so.

According to the Turkish Foreign Ministry’s statement on Jan. 18, the Armenian constitutional court’s “grounds for decision” over the conformity of the protocols to their constitution “contain preconditions and restrictive provisions which impair the letter and spirit of the protocols” and “undermine the very reason for negotiating these protocols as well as their fundamental objective.”

Burak Özügergin, the Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesperson, told Today’s Zaman that Armenia has taken the heart out of the protocols and created a new, restrictive situation. He further explained that on the one hand, the court had ruled to approve the protocols, which call for the establishment of a joint commission of historians to better understand past events, but on the other it refers to the Declaration of Independence of Armenia.

Paragraph 11 of the Declaration of Independence states, “The Republic of Armenia stands in support of the task of achieving international recognition of the 1915 Genocide in Ottoman Turkey and Western Armenia.”

“Then why establish a commission of historians?” Özügergin said.

In the fifth paragraph of the Armenian court’s ruling it says that the protocols “cannot be interpreted or applied” in a way that would contradict the provisions of the preamble to Armenia’s constitution and the requirements of paragraph 11 of its Declaration of Independence.

Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesperson Özügergin pointed out another issue of concern for the Turkish side — the main limitations the Armenian court has placed on the protocols in that the court made all clauses of the protocols conditional on the implementation of two main obligations: “establish diplomatic relations” and “open the common border.”

On Wednesday, Hurriyet quoted Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan as saying, “We took it directly to our Parliament, without making changes. We didn’t employ a mediator on the text. We didn’t carry out any read-between-the-lines operations. This is a proof of our sincerity. Armenia has tried to change the text.”

Now it is Turkey who is playing the blame game about preconditions attached to the protocols. Wasn’t it Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu who repeatedly stated to the Turkish and international pressafter the protocols had been signed that the normalization of relations between Turkey and Armenia cannot be established without a Nagorno-Karakagh peace deal in Azerbaijan’s favor? They have been saying this repeatedly and unabashedly for months now. There is not one provision in the protocols that alludes to a peaceful settlement to the Nagorno-Karabagh conflict in exchange for an opened border. Last week when Erdogan visited Moscow Prime Minister Vladimir Putin stated essentially that Turkey had to back off and not confuse the two issues, and Washington has alluded to the same, although in more vague language.

I think, given the rhetoric that Turkish diplomats have been reiterating, the Constitutional Court’s ruling is certainly helpful to the Armenian side, because it clearly shows that Yerevan can also play hardball. Naturally, Ankara is demonstrating that it isn’t happy, just as it has all along, which is good. I’m looking forward to a derailing of the protocols quite honestly. I thought it was foolish for Yerevan to sign them in the first place, and given the recent bickering, both sides are probably regretting having been pressured to get on with the diplomatic fence-mending process.

I really don’t think that the Turks and Armenians are anywhere close to resolving their differences in the spirit of peace and mutual understanding, which is evidently absent.

Turkey’s Parliament Receives Protocols

On Wednesday, the protocols were formerly introduced to the Turkish parliament for deliberation and anticipated approval. Anticipated primarily by the West I should add. Nevertheless, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan promised that the parliament would not ratify them.

Hetq reported Deniz Baykal, who is the leader of Turkey’s Republican party, stating the following:

“We believe Turkey’s problems with Azerbaijan have gone beyond being a problem of discourse and have headed in a more serious direction. I see who is right and who is wrong regarding this issue. Turkey failed to manage the process of opening its border with Armenia and is now faced with grave problems.”

The article then points out that:

The main opposition party leader criticized the recent signing of two protocols between Turkey and Armenia, which call for the opening of the border, closed since 1993, and the restoration of diplomatic relations.

Mr. Baykal added that the main opposition party will not sacrifice Turkey’s friendship with Azerbaijan because of the bad policies of the government.

Meanwhile, Armenia claims that its National Assembly will not deliberate on the protocols until Turkey’s parliament ratifies them.

questionSo judging by this information, Turkey’s friendship with Azerbaijan is far more important than the budding one with Armenia. This was already assumed before the protocols were signed with similar statements made in the Turkish Press, including those previously stated by Prime Minister Erdogan. So why were the protocols signed, what did the signing actually accomplish? That Turkey is indeed a peace-loving, yet hypocritical nation?

Given the recent developments in the ongoing plight to accept the “gestures of goodwill,” you have to wonder what the point to this hype is. I find it hard to believe that the Turkish parliament will indeed reject the protocols since Turkey indeed has lots to gain from an opened border with Armenia and “free” commerce, not to mention a possible stronghold on Armenian’s far from stable economy. There’s also the paranoid, nevertheless legitimate fear of Pan-Turanism taking root once the border opens.

I really don’t think that Turkey—including its hardliner politicians—give a damn about how the Nagorno-Karabagh conflict will play out in the end, yet Prime Minister Erdogan claims the opposite. He’s shown his deceitful side several times in the past so I can’t really believe his words until the Turkish parliament ends up rejecting the protocols, but again, I doubt that will actually happen.

Yet let’s consider that I am wrong and the protocols are not ratified. Again, what was the point of signing them in the first place—a simple, feeble demonstration of good will? Was President Sarkisian simply gambling by agreeing to the protocols knowing quite well that they wouldn’t be approved, or was he indeed sincere about implementing them? And what was all that congratulating about on President Sarkisian’s part every time Turkey scored during the football match on October 14? (Armenia lost 2-0.) Armenians didn’t take too kindly to his behavior. Was that part of his chess-like charade, assuming there is one?

Personally I stopped caring about this process the day the protocols were signed. I realized then and there that I did all I could in the effort to stop the protocols from being signed by repeatedly writing about the dangers for Armenia on this blog and in other articles. And after judging the rather weak protests that have been ensuing in Armenia against the protocols during the last four weeks, I became even more indifferent.

I join millions of others wondering what the end-result will be from all this, without really caring that much about the outcome. Armenian citizens who are opposed to an opened border under the current circumstances should be more vocal about their beliefs, and their silence is convincing me that nothing about this process really matters.