Crisis Group Issues Blueprint for Further Crisis

The International Crisis Group, a think tank that dispenses suggestions on conflict resolutions around the world, issued a report Tuesday entitled “Turkey and Armenia: Opening Minds, Opening Borders,” in which it offers recommendation to Turkey and Armenia on opening of borders and what it calls reconciliation. The 40-plus-page report is more of a blueprint for further crisis–if not disaster–than a self-proclaimed resolution to what it calls a “dispute that has long roiled Caucasus politics, isolated Armenia and cast a shadow over Turkey’s European Union (EU) ambition.”

The ICG says, “Turkey and Armenia should seize their best opportunity yet to normalize relations, work on a new approach to shared history and open a European border that for nearly a century has been hostage to conflict.”

Some of the pro-Turkish apparatchiks that make up the board of directors of this think tank are Morton Abramowitz, former US Ambassador to Turkey, former Congressman Steven Solarz an ardent supporter of Turkey who was on the Turkish government’s payroll here in the US, Guler Sabanci, Chairperson of the Turkish giant Sabanci Holdings and Yegor Gaidar, the former Russian Prime Minister during the Azeri pogroms against Armenians in Baku and elsewhere.

ICG’s Director of Europe Program Sabine Freizer identified Director of Armenian Center for National and International Studies Richard Giragosian as a collaborator on the report.

Freizer added that the impetus for the report was the reconciliation process that has been going on, as well as the Russia-Georgia war of last August.

The highly questionable timing of the release of this report clearly indicates yet another attempt to derail efforts to recognize the Armenian Genocide.

Armenian National Committee of America Executive Director Aram Hamparian says: “Sadly, the ICG reported prepared by Hugh Pope represents little more than a reworked version of the Turkish Embassy’s latest talking points in opposition to U.S. recognition of the Armenian Genocide.  In its timing just prior to April 24th, its biased content, and its policy recommendations, it represents a painfully transparent effort to derail the growing momentum toward recognition this April by the U.S. President and Congress.”

Among the recommendations the report offers are immediate agreement by Armenia and Azerbaijan to the OSCE Minsk Group principles and more problematic and dangerous element of urging Armenia to adhere to the 1921 Kars Treaty, to which Armenia was never a signatory. That secret treaty between USSR and Turkey delineated the current borders between Armenia and Turkey.

The report urges Turkey to not make the resolution of the Karabakh conflict a precondition, but rather make its ally, Azerbaijan, understand that d?tente between Turkey and Armenia would go a long way to ensure a preferred outcome to the Karabakh conflict resolution.

The international community, especially the US and EU, are also urged to resist efforts to recognize the Genocide and “Back up Turkey-Armenia reconciliation with projects to encourage region-wide interaction, heritage preservation and confidence building; and support as requested any new bilateral historical commission or sub-commission, development of archive management and independent Turkish- or Armenian-led scholarly endeavors to research into aspects of the 1915 events.”

Citing the Turkish outpouring of support following the Dink assassination as well as last December’s apology campaign, the report aims to paint a picture of increasing tolerance within Turkish circles to confront their history.

More importantly, however, the report paints a picture of a Diaspora divided with so-called hard-liners continuing to press for recognition of the Genocide and introduces the emergence of a new faction within the Diaspora–“the artistic ones”–who want to establish ties with Turkey, have Turkish friends and restore cultural monuments.

The delineated recommendations by the International Crisis Group open the door for a more prolonged crisis in the region that could have disastrous consequences for Armenia and Armenians around the world.

The recommendations speak to all the aspirations of Turkey and Azerbaijan and leave Armenia and Armenians around the world short-changed.

On the surface, all parties are being asked to make concessions in the interest of stability in the region. However, between the lines, the ICG wants Armenia to concede more than the others and make the most sacrifices in this shortsighted approach to regional peace.

Armenia has always agreed to negotiations without any preconditions. Yet, the report is a reiteration of all the preconditions being placed upon it by Turkey and, in a backhanded way, Azerbaijan. By asking the sides to immediately open the borders and establish diplomatic ties and, at the same time, adhere to OSCE Minsk Group principles, Armenia is effectively being put in a position to give up all of its historic rights without any guarantees of stability.

Armenia, and Armenians, must become more vocal in protecting national interests and reject any effort by governments or entities with special interests to define the course to be taken in the historic crossroads.

Perhaps the ICG should have entitled its report: “Armenia: Opening Wide, Opening Borders.”

Visit www.crisisgroup.org for the complete report.

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