The American Example

By Ara Papian

In 1927, the leadership of the United States was considering the same dilemma as the authorities of the Republic of Armenia face today. The administration, giving in to the interests of the business community, intended to establish diplomatic relations with Turkey, while public opinion and a majority of the Senate remained against such a move. It’s not that they opposed it in general, but that the cost seemed unacceptable. It was felt that it would be inappropriate to work for one’s interests through treachery.

The problem was the following. Although there was no formal declaration of war between the US and the Ottoman Empire during the First World War, the Turks had withdrawn their diplomatic relations with America on the 20th of April, 1917. Ten years after the end of the war, it seemed natural that the parties would works towards re-establishing diplomatic ties, especially because American companies held increasing economic interests in Turkey. A bi-lateral treaty had been signed on normalizing relations as far back as the 6th of August, 1923, in Lausanne, Switzerland. According to the US Constitution, that document could only enter into force upon the approval of the Senate.

And so, in December, 1926, the White House sent on this treaty to the Senate. Although well aware of the major economic stakes that America had in Turkey, the Senate declined to approve the said treaty on the 18th of January, 1927. It turned out that the 1923 treaty had very convoluted wording, which could have been interpreted as a denial of the arbitral award of President Woodrow Wilson (granted on the 22nd of November, 1920). Let me once again state that this is the very document by which the common frontier maintained to this day between Armenia and Turkey was decided. The Senate of the United States did not dismiss its own international liabilities and did not deny the territorial rights of the Republic of Armenia for the sake of economic interests.

Now, this was 1927. There was no longer a Republic of Armenia, and no-one knew whether Armenian statehood would ever rise again. However, American lawmakers decided not to close for good the only door to salvation for the Armenian people.

It is due to this vote that, to this day, we have influential political and legal means, the skillful utilization of which can not only lift the blockade on Armenia, but can also bring about real security guarantees for the country as well as immense monetary income.

After the Senate rejected the treaty, the Americans, as a practical people, were quick to act and, one month later, on the 17th of February, 1927, diplomatic relations between the US and Turkey were re-established with the exchange of diplomatic notes. Naturally, the territorial rights of the Republic of Armenia were not considered. The diplomatic notes only served their own direct purpose, and thus did not consist of dense or ambiguous wording. An excerpt follows:

The United States of America and Turkey are agreed to establish between themselves diplomatic and consular relations, based upon the principles of international law, and to proceed to the appointment of Ambassadors as soon as possible.1

And not a single superfluous word. I would like to suggest following the American example both with regards to the conduct of their lawmakers, and also in the contents of any document establishing diplomatic relations. If the Turks are sincere and really willing to normalize their relations with us, they would not hesitate to establish diplomatic relations and lift the blockade on Armenia. If their real intent is to extort the denial of our rights from us, then they would play at their games and the issue would move to other circles.

It would be most prudent not to render the establishment of diplomatic relations and the opening of the so-called border a self-serving act.

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