What Happens Next?


The timing of the now-infamous “Roadmap” announced last Wednesday by the foreign ministries of Armenia, Turkey and Switzerland not only cast a dark cloud over April 24 commemorations around the world and in Armenia, but also put in motion political events, the results of which may, in the long run, hurt Armenia and Armenians and their national aspirations and security.

Monday’s announcement by the Armenian Revolutionary Federation to quit Armenia’s coalition government resulted from this and other contentious issues stemming from Yerevan’s handling of this process and creating a new political landscape that can have its implications in the Diaspora.

It is always desirable and socio-economically necessary to have good relations with one’s neighbors, but the manner in which this particular agreement was derived raises questions about the viability of Armenia’s position in this and other regional aspects. The agreement, which is shrouded in secrecy and official Yerevan’s refusal to dialogue with its people prior to taking the country on a journey of historic proportions, makes it hard to not conjecture that in this process Armenia has made certain concessions.

Although President Serzh Sarkisian and Foreign Minister Eduard Nalbandian continue to reiterate that these discussions and any future agreement on opening of the borders will be derived without any pre-conditions, the timing–two days before the official 94th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide–signals that an irreversible and irrevocable concession was already forced on and made by Armenia.

While during the negotiation process, the parties can express and adopt positions that may lead to success or breakdown of talks, the fact will always remain that the announcement was made on April 22. There is no going back.

The Turkish side adeptly manipulated this process beginning with leaks in Turkish, US and Azeri press alleging that Armenia had already agreed to certain provisions the most important of which was the establishment of a commission to address the Genocide and the second the recognition of today’s Turkish borders, which effectively signaled that Armenia was willing to recognize the Kars treaty to which it was never a signatory.

During recent weeks, the tenor of the Sarkisian administration on the issue of Genocide recognition also changed.

In an interview, which was conducted before the “roadmap” agreement but was published after the announcement Sarkisian told the Wall Street Journal that recognition of Genocide was for “restoration of justice and prevention of genocide in the future”–a very watered-down version of the Armenian Cause.

Sarkisian went on tell the WSJ that “If some countries decide to create difficulties in those [Armenia-Turkey] relations, they would just announce a recognition of genocide and so would compromise relations between Armenia and Turkey. Once again, it is not we who are pushing the US to recognize the genocide.” For an administration, which from day one has stated that the international recognition of the Armenian Genocide was an integral part of its foreign and domestic policy, this flip-flopping by the president sends a mixed signal to foreign governments and thwarts decades-long efforts to garner recognition for the Genocide.

The meddling US-factor cannot be ignored in this equation. The unprecedented attention that the Caucasus/Turkey received during the first 100 days of the Obama administration, with Hillary Clinton and then Barack Obama visiting Turkey and the State Department’s consigliore, Matthew Bryza effectively setting up camp in the Caucasus and specifically at Ilham Aliyev’s doorstep, signaled that the US wanted to place this issue on the fast track, because it wanted to advance its agenda in the region and the role Turkey needed to play in order for US aspirations to succeed. Obama was not going to risk a repeat of 2003 when Turkey refused US access to Iraq through the Incirlik airbase.

So, why not give everyone what they wanted.

Obama perched Turkey on a mantle as a regional player/leader/conduit and through Vice-President Joe Biden “applauded” Sarkisian for his leadership, an affirmation by the US that the Armenian president needed and direly wanted ever since taking office in April 2008. So, Armenia was quick to give in to US demands, perhaps in hopes that it will receive a larger US aid package and the once-frozen Millennium challenge money.

This is no excuse for Obama to trample on his own campaign pledge on April 24, but if the Armenian leadership was willing to show disdain on the timing of this announcement, then more reason for the US to justify its actions by pointing the finger at Armenia.

Nevertheless, Obama’s betrayal of his own pledge is unforgivable and demonstrates that this agent for change buckled down under pressure from the various forces that define the US agenda and became synonymous with his predecessors. By not properly recognizing the Genocide, Obama alienated a very vocal support-base, which went to great lengths to ensure his election.

The always word-conscious Obama should be told that “Medz Yeghern” does not mean “Tseghaspanutiune”–Genocide.

So, what does happen next? The domino effect that Yerevan’s faulty timing has created will impact on how we do things here in the US. This means securing the passage of the Genocide resolution is now, more than ever, more critical and demands a more vigorous grassroots involvement to ensure that the number of co-sponsors increases and that Speaker Pelosi will place this for a vote on the House floor.

Her remarks last week indicated her continued insistence that the Genocide be recognized. We should harness the bi-partisan support toward the passage of the resolution, which, in essence, direct the president to properly recognize the Genocide.

As for the ARF, it will become an alternative on the political scene in Armenia and will be able to guide the people through principled policies aimed at fostering national interests and it will continue to vocally oppose any effort or agreement that will pose a threat to national security and threaten our national aspirations.

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