What Lessons Should Armenia’s Learn From TARC’s Demise?

By Harut Sassounian

Even though the demise of the Turkish-Armenian Reconciliation Commission (TARC) was widely anticipated–Armenia’s worldwide breathed a sigh of relief when its death was finally announced last week. In a joint statement–the four Armenian members of TARC announced that "TARC is not going to proceed" and asserted that they had taken this action in retaliation for the Turkish commissioners’ decision not to go ahead with a study by a third party concerning the Armenian Genocide.

The Armenian commissioners and their supporters naturally blamed the Turks for TARC’s "untimely" demise.

While the Turks deserve to be criticized–it is all-too-easy and convenient to pin the whole blame on them. A more useful and instructive exercise would be for Armenia’s to ask some tough questions to themselves:

Who Is Responsible For This Fiasco?

a. The main culprits are the four Armenian members of TARC: Alexander Arzoumanian–David Hovhannissian–Van Krikorian–and Andranik Mihranian. Those who took the lead in the formation of TARC bear a higher degree of responsibility.

b. The blame should be shared by the few Armenian groups and individuals that supported this misadventure–even though many of them were fooled into thinking that TARC was simply an attempt at "dialogue" between Armenia’s and Turks.

c. The governing boards and the membership of these groups wrongly allowed a small clique of their leaders to support TARC without the knowledge or the approval of the majority of their members. Such negligent behavior on the part of the majority in these organizations made it possible for an autocratic minority to hijack and ruin a group’s reputation.

d. A couple of Armenian newspapers–motivated by self-serving considerations–misled their readers by publishing ghost-written editorials favoring TARC.

e. The blame also goes to Armenian government officials who consciously or unconsciously handed over to the four Armenian TARC members the conduct of Turkish-Armenian relations.

What Price Should Be Paid For The Damage Caused?

a. The four Armenian members of TARC have already paid a hefty price by being discredited in the eyes of the entire Armenian nation. A couple of them will probably lose their leadership roles in their respective organizations.

b. The organizations and individuals that backed TARC have also been tarnished. Some of these groups have lost both members as well as financial supporters.

c. The State Department–the Turkish government–and other foreign powers now know who NOT to deal with in future discussions involving Armenian issues.

d) A growing number of Armenia’s are questioning the wisdom of those Armenian government officials who gave their tacit consent to the formation of TARC.

What Lessons Should Be Learned From This Misadventure?

a. Reconciliation with Turkey can only be achieved after the Turkish government recognizes the crime of its predecessor and makes appropriate amen’s for the grave damage caused to the Armenian nation.

b. Negotiations with Turkey can only be conducted from a position of strength–not weakness. Catering to the Turks or wining and dining them will not lead to the recognition of the Armenian Genocide.

c. The Turks had agreed to join TARC not for the purpose of reconciling with the Armenia’s or recognizing the Genocide–but to scuttle the successful efforts that had led to the recognition of the Armenian Genocide by a growing number of countries in recent years.

d. Critical issues affecting the entire Armenian nation–like the Genocide or the Karabakh conflict–should not be negotiated by a handful of individuals behind closed doors. Serious efforts should be made to include the major segmen’s of the Armenian nation prior to sitting at the negotiating table with Armenia’s enemies. e. Armenian organizations should no longer blindly add their signatures to any statement submitted to them by another group unless they can independently verify the alleged facts and argumen’s contained in that statement. In recent months–so many false representations have been made to the Armenian community that henceforth–all such claims have to be scrutinized before trusting their accuracy.

How Do We Ensure That Such Mistakes Are Not Repeated?

a. Those who were involved in this fiasco have to acknowledge their mistake. In their last statement–the Armenian members of TARC said that they "continue to believe" that contacts between Turks and Armenia’s "such as those which have been enabled through the TARC continue to be necessary." This statement may indicate that TARC is not fully dead and that its Armenian members and supporters have not learned their lesson. Given another opportunity–they will probably repeat their grave mistakes!

b. Pan-Armenian consultations have to take place before embarking on solo adventures that involve the interests of the entire nation.

c. Armenian government officials have to think long and hard about the possible consequences of such private initiatives the next time someone approaches them with a similar half-baked idea.

d. Those who irresponsibly aggravated the division within the Armenian community and caused such serious damage to the recognition of the Armenian Genocide and the retention of Section 907 have to prove in concrete actions–not just words–that they have made significant organizational changes that will preclude a small clique from embarking on an adventure that risks compromising the interests of the entire nation. It would also be welcome–if they would admit that it was wrong to attack the reputations of those who criticized TARC.

e. The transcripts of all TARC meetings should be made public to regain the trust and confidence of the Armenian community and learn valuable lessons as to what went wrong.

If Armenia’s both in Armenia and the Diaspora draw the appropriate lessons from this contentious experience and become more conscientious about the critical issues facing the nation–they would then be able stand up to their rights and not allow any one to manipulate their interests.

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