Armenians Should Form a United Front Before Any Negotiations With Turkey

Harut Sassounian

BY HARUT SASSOUNIAN

My latest column on Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu’s efforts to initiate a dialog with the Diaspora generated numerous reactions from both Armenians and Turks.

Turkish newspapers, TV stations, and websites gave extensive coverage to Davutoglu’s reported overtures to Armenians. The Turkish media linked the Foreign Minister’s initiative to Armenian plans for the commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the Genocide in 2015.

Armenians posted dozens of comments on websites and facebook in response to my column which was circulated worldwide in English, Armenian, Turkish, French, and Russian. The Armenian reaction was understandably skeptical and cautious. Armenian government officials quietly followed the reports on Davutoglu’s meetings without making any public comment, while the Armenian press in Istanbul simply reprinted what the Turkish media had published on this topic.

Armenian readers raised two key issues: Who would represent the Diaspora if and when Armenians start negotiating with Turkey, and what should be the specific Armenian demands from the Turkish government?

These are highly complex issues deserving serious consideration by Armenians worldwide. Ideally, Diaspora representatives should be selected through elections in various countries, as proposed in my earlier columns. Those elected would have the right to represent Diaspora Armenians in any negotiations.

These representatives would have to coordinate their decisions and actions with the Armenian government, particularly on the critical issue of negotiating with Turkey, by forming a joint delegation. As Armenians learned from the recent fiasco of the Armenia-Turkey Protocols, it would be unthinkable to reach a settlement with Turkey without the participation and agreement of both Armenia and the Diaspora.

In the absence of an elected Diasporan structure, representatives of the three main Armenian political parties, jointly with the Armenian government, could take the lead in forming a single negotiating team. To make the delegation more inclusive, several major community organizations and prominent individuals could be asked to join, including representatives of Armenians in Turkey.

Another critical issue is framing the agenda of negotiations with Turkish officials. What are the Armenians’ concrete demands from Turkey? This is an extremely serious and sensitive matter that requires in depth knowledge of the Armenian Cause and expertise in negotiating strategies and tactics.

It would be instructive for Armenians to review how Israel and 23 major Jewish organizations came together as the

Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, to obtain restitution for Holocaust victims; and how these organizations coordinated their positions with the State of Israel which signed a separate Reparations Agreement with West Germany? Over the years, as a result of their collaborative efforts, the coalition of Jewish Diaspora organizations and Israel received more than $70 billion dollars in restitution from Germany.

Additional lessons could be learned from examples of financial settlements resulting from mass torts, asbestos exposure and product liability, and claims arising from destruction of the World Trade Center and the Gulf oil spill.

There is, however, a significant difference between the Holocaust and the Armenian Genocide. While the Jewish people were exterminated in European countries under Nazi rule, Armenians were massacred and forcefully driven from their ancestral homeland. Therefore, no amount of monetary payment will fully compensate Armenians for the loss of their historic lands. Armenians should seek not only compensation for their personal losses, but also the return of Western Armenia as arbitrated by Pres. Woodrow Wilson — a claim Turkey has repeatedly rejected.

Should serious negotiations materialize, the joint Armenian delegation could ask Turkey to take the following preliminary actions to show its good faith:

Compensate all Genocide victims;

Rebuild and return all religious sites to the Armenian Patriarchate of Istanbul;

Return all confiscated private and community properties to their Armenian owners;

Provide the Republic of Armenia with special access to the Turkish port of Trabzon for commercial purposes;

Give Armenians visa-free entry to Ararat, Ani, and other Armenian historical sites in Turkey;

Lift the blockade of Armenia;

End Turkey’s official policy of denial of the Armenian Genocide and annul Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code;

Refrain from all hostile policies directed against Armenia and Artsakh (Karabagh).

These measures, if agreed upon, would represent significant progress in the pursuit of Armenian claims from Turkey, whereas the issue of territorial restitution could be addressed separately through international legal action.

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15 Comments

  1. Mego said:

    Dear Mr. Sassounian.
    Israel directly or indirectly received Land compensation in Palestine, and for those few among us who don’t see the big picture, let me remind them that Turkey lost more than half of it’s territory in both world wars, specifically to France and Britian, and still maintains close ties with both of these countries today.
    Brilliant is your suggestion of forming a United Armenian Front, so we all speak with one voice, and stand United against those who aim to divide us.
    Thank you.

  2. peter megerdumian said:

    Armenia should do a land exchange with Turkey. Give back our historical lands in Western Armenia and you can have the lands in the area of the Republic of Armenia back including Nagorno-Karabagh. The dirty Azeris can build as many pipelines as they want through the present area of the Republic of Armenia. It would be a win-win situation but the stupid Turks would never have the intelligence to realize the benefits of such a deal.

  3. peter megerdumian said:

    Armenia needs free access to the sea for it’s economy to prosper and opening the border with Turkey would be a disaster because the Turks want to economically take over Armenia. A land exchange would be better but the Turks are so filled with racism and hate that they don’t realize that both Armenia and Turkey would win with this deal.

  4. Arman said:

    I’m tellin you right now……….. any sumbitch tries to sell us out– dies.
    Scottish nobles sold their own people to the English even AFTER Wallace & Co. liberated Scotland, so the country was under English rule, the people fought for independence, but Scotland fell to the English a second time (and is under English rule to this day) thanks to nobles who betrayed the people. The Scots are to this day trying to get out of English rule. What a horrible pity that Wallace’s suffering and sacrifice was all for nothing…. the English crown ingeniously managed to neutralize Scottish patriots’ work and lure some two-bit nobles to open the gates to the enemy like Trojan horses.
    Any half assed Armenian traitors in disguise better learn their lesson from now. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.

  5. Vatche' Kaloustian said:

    It is time to convene the Third Diaspora Armenian Parliament (since 1912 & 1919) to represent the exiled Western Armenian constituency as one body along with the Republic of Armenia and the NKR, Artsakh, as seperate entities. I propose for Armenians in America to have elected representatives of the “silent majority” to participate in electing representatives similar to what Armenians in Europe and Russia are doing. This is apart from those participants who are represented through the various existing organizations such as the Anc, Arf or the Assembly. The purpose is to identify every armenian claimant and not to limit the representative body to the membership of the traditional pre- existing organasitations. this will insure a more complete representation of all Claimants for Genocide Reparation by name; and, to have all declared participants represented by calling on one designated person for each 1000 or 10, 000.named community member designated geographically across the entire USA. Claims for Genocide Reparations, which, by definition, include the patriotic right of return, (whether or not the participating survivor or descendant is actually planning to return to the homeland, e. g. to Malatia, Sepasdia… etc.), as well as claims for lost blood and property; real, personal and otherwise such as schools churches, monasteries, cemetries and other lands; forests, mountains and valleys, including all criminally occupied territory- named or not named, lost towns, cities and wilderness.

    • Albert said:

      Vatche, this is a brilliant idea. The Armenian government has made a huge mistake by shutting out the diaspora in important governmental decision-making. The Armenian government has made many mistakes and talented people from the diaspora could be a real help. There should be a permanent diasporan parliament.to allow for continuous feedback.

  6. David Holobian said:

    Dear Harut

    Are you naive still believing that Turks will follow to all your lines? Where is the Armenian power to force them do do so?

    • Heghapokhagan said:

      Unfortunatly it is a duty of Armenia’s government… but since Armenia’s government is a “Business Entity (meaning immoral unnationalistic) “….. instead of protecting and serving the Best Interest of Armenian people. Then The Diaspora will have to form a government … very unorthodox lol…

  7. arsu said:

    ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha

  8. edward Demian said:

    One hundred years of tax free status in Turkey. Personal and business. A nationwide DNA survey to identify the population of Armenian descent.

  9. Heghapokhagan said:

    Dear “Mr.” Sassounian….. over Very Serious Vital Issue like this one… you are giving your “Personal Opinion” Instead of “COLLECTIVE OPINION”

    • David Holobian said:

      Agree, Haruth just forgot to say that he will be the president of united Armenia :)

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