How Should the Diaspora React To New Turkish Overtures?

Harut Sassounian


I have been informed by reliable sources that Turkey’s Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu is continuing his efforts to initiate a personal ‘dialog’ with the Diaspora on Armenian-Turkish issues. Earlier this month, Davutoglu met with Armenian-Americans, as follow up to the meetings he held in Washington last March.

During their conversation in May, the Armenian interlocutors frankly advised the Turkish Foreign Minister that Ankara must address Armenian demands for genocide recognition and restitution before any ‘reconciliation’ could be achieved. The Turkish side reportedly indicated a willingness to discuss these thorny issues with Diasporan representatives.

Despite the seeming openness of Foreign Minister Davutoglu, Armenians have well-founded reasons to mistrust such overtures, given Turkey’s decades-long denial of the Armenian Genocide and its antagonistic policies toward the Diaspora, Armenia and Artsakh. Armenians also suspect that Turkish officials may exploit meetings with the Diaspora to score propaganda points with world public opinion.

Nonetheless, one wonders why the very busy Turkish Foreign Minister has invested so much of his precious time and effort to hold a series of private meetings with Armenians in recent weeks.

One possible explanation is that Turkish leaders are seriously concerned about the upcoming 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide. Ankara may have realized that unless it took proactive measures, it could not stem the tide of anti-Turkish publicity generated in 2015 by Armenian commemorative activities worldwide.

The second likely reason why the Turkish government may want to talk with Diaspora Armenians is its long-standing interest in joining the European Union. As the newly-elected French President Francois Hollande warned, unless Turkey recognizes the Armenian Genocide, France will reject its application for EU membership.

The third possible explanation for the Turkish overtures is that Prime Minister Rejeb Erdogan has a freer hand in tackling Armenian-Turkish issues at a time when his ruling party controls the Parliament and many of his hard-line military adversaries are under arrest.

Regardless of why Turkey is reaching out to the Diaspora at this time, Armenians have to make their decisions based solely on their own national interest, as to whether this is an opportune moment to test Turkey’s resolve to deal with the disastrous consequences of the Armenian Genocide.

However, before Diaspora’s leaders react to Davutoglu’s persistent efforts for ‘dialog,’ they should ask Turkish officials to clarify their true intentions by making some positive gestures, starting with the return of the Holy Cross Church on Akhtamar Island to the Armenian Patriarchate of Turkey. This historic church is currently designated as a museum belonging to the Turkish Ministry of Culture and Tourism. Furthermore, the Turkish government has to do much more than renovating a couple of churches for touristic purposes and returning a handful of properties to the Armenian community in Istanbul. There are thousands of confiscated churches and community properties throughout Turkey that must be returned to their rightful Armenian owners.

An initial test of Turkish sincerity in pursuing ‘reconciliation’ with Armenians would be putting an immediate halt to genocide denial, eliminating Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code, and ending all adversarial behavior toward Armenia and Artsakh.

In view of the fact that the Turkish government will not willingly and unconditionally meet Armenian demands, and that all outstanding issues would have to be resolved someday through direct negotiations, Diasporan organizational leaders should prepare for such an eventuality. In this regard, it is important to review the records of the 1977 meeting in Zurich, Switzerland, between Turkish Foreign Minister Sabri Caglayangil and representatives of the three Armenian political parties.

Here are some preliminary thoughts to consider before any further meetings or discussions are held between Turkish leaders and Diaspora representatives:

In the absence of an elected Diasporan representative body, major Armenian organizations, with assistance from experts in diplomacy and the art of negotiation, should start drafting a common strategy and a list of demands from Turkey. No Armenian organization or individual should be involved in separate negotiations with Turkey, to deny Ankara the opportunity to create disunity in the Diaspora.

It is imperative that Diasporan representatives coordinate their negotiating positions with leaders in Armenia and Artsakh to assure a common stand vis-à-vis Turkey.

In normal circumstances, Turkish diplomats would have dealt with Armenian issues in direct negotiations with their counterparts in Armenia. However, given Azerbaijan’s obstruction of the Armenia-Turkey Protocols, pending the resolution of the Karabagh (Artsakh) conflict, Turkish leaders are left with no choice but to reach out to the Diaspora and address its legitimate demands.

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  1. Zareh said:

    Who the hell are those “Armenians” that are “negotiating” with that low life foreign minister.
    As far as I am concerned the Armenian Diaspora would be represented by our traditional political parties.
    The traditional political parties SHOULD and MUST decide among themselves the members who will be in touch with the Turkish representatives.
    I must say there should not be any negotiations started before a full acknowledgment of the Genocide by the Turkish side. Only then the Armenian delegation representing the Armenian Republic and the Armenian Diaspora representatives will sit down and start negotiating on the new borders of Armenia and Turkey, the financial compensation to the heirs of the victims, return of personal property to the heirs of the victims, the return of ALL Armenian properties outside the NEW Wilsonian Republic of Armenia including churches, monasteries, cemeteries, cultural buildings, archeological finding, remains of any Armenians found and most of all an APOLOGY by the Prime Minister and the President of Turkey by visiting the Genocide Memorial in Yerevan with placement of a wreath of flowers at the eternal flame and a written apology in the visitor’s dossier at the genocide museum.
    Only then Turks and Armenians can be good neighbors.

    • Digin Norik said:

      Abris Zareh.. You are right. This is an important issue and we can NOT have every Tom, Dick and Harry decide for our future. Following your line of thinking, here is a criteria– Turks must accept the Genocide, only then a delegation from our traditional political parties, the two heads of our churches, the president of Armenia and lawyers representing Armenia and Diaspora should attend the negotiation..Included in the delegation also, representatives from selected nato countries.
      We should also remind the Turks that giving back our lands will make us flourish the lands and become a better neighbor which could help their economy and counrty prosper
      . One last thought, remembering historical lies should be on our agenda.

      • Heghapokhagan said:

        I believe there is a Simple Logical Way of forming Diasporan Government…….

        Since I was 5 years old, my Grandfather (Genocide Survivor) used to take me to demonstrations… Since then until now ALL These Years….. “FUNDAMENTALLY ALL DEMONSTRATIONS ALL OVER THE WORLD WERE ORGANIZED BY …
        “COALITION GENOCIDE COMMITTEE (HUNTCHAK TASHNAK RAMGAVAR)”… …..and here you go… but this time, instead of doing it on loca/city/regional or country scale, it should be done on GLOBAL SCALE!!!!!!!! and here is the Armenian Government of Diaspora!!!!!!!

  2. George said:

    I doubt that Western world would support the return of Armenian land back to Armenians as long as todays Armenia is under Russian influence, in fears of anexing those lands to Armenia, the only way on the long run could prospere is to have 2 Armenias, East and West, like North Corea and South Corea.

    • Hye said:

      You are absolutely right George. And I think (major powers including U.S. Russia and British) of world would agree to that.

      • Heghapokhagan said:

        how about this: Prior 1920 there was “NO AZERBAIJAN… NEVER EXISTED”
        you guys are so passive….

        • Heghapokhagan said:

          Have you ever thought about Western Armenia / Kurdistan could be Pro European/Pro American…

        • Heghapokhagan said:

          Have you ever thought about….
          Western Armenia …. could have its own “Western Armenia Government”

    • edward Demian said:

      Armenia, Artsack, Abhazia, Javack & Samsketia, Western Armenia, Cilicia; all need to be independent, so they could vote as a block at the UN. It’s all about power and influence.

  3. aram said:

    Yete Turkin ghoski 7 titegh vosgi illa noren Turkin mi havadak.
    Thank you Harout for the artickle.

  4. edward Demian said:

    As a descendant of an Ottoman citizen, I would like, at the very least, the rights that we had under the old constitution.
    The right to return without much paperwork or formalities.
    Equal societal and legal rights with Muslims.
    First right to claim ancestral estates. Double compensation to all. Christian and Muslim. return of former Armenian owned property to a national trust, managed by an Eclesiastic/Lay commission.
    Return and repair at states expense, all dammaged or destroyed national monuments.
    100 years of tax exemption.; Personal and business.

  5. Garo said:

    Anything that comes from a Turkish official is coming from a Kemalist NAZI. Therefore beware, I do not believe any Turk who says tomorrow morning the sun is rising. I have to go and make sure.

    Turks never changed and they will not change, so long as Armenia is weak and vulnerable. The Diaspora has to be hard, unbending and push more and more our demand that the Armenian Genocide must be recognized and NOTHING else would start a dialogue between us and them.

  6. MK said:

    Sadly we have a few turncoats in our societ which need to be ignored,as they represent nothing but themselves.
    Very good article,well done Harut.

  7. arziv said:

    Interesting propositions. East and West Armenia ? Where will East Armenia be, and where will West Armenia be ? Who will populate East and West Armenia ? North and South Corea ? We should be engaging with Davotoglou and his turks. The engagement should have principles, the principle of acknowledgement by Davotouglou and his turks of the genocide. The engagement should be within the framework of reparations, atonement, and more atonement and reparations. If Davotoglou and his turks don’t agree, then talking to them is a waste. The turks would like to talk with the Armenians about superficial aspects , not the substance; very much to the manner the israelis have been talking to the palestinians for the last 60 years. That is what turks would love to do. Not all turks are the same, there are those , in a minuscule minority, who see and make sense; however these are in the minority. One should hope that with the transition of time their numbers would grow. This ,however it is only a hope, and one should not bank on it.

  8. Hamasdegh said:

    The diversity of comments here indicate two things: a) we are terribly disorganized at the national organizational level and b) are unable to come up with a story line that is consistent and uniform. By now we should have known who are the people who are having discussions with Turkish authorities on OUR behalf , and if so who has appointed them. Why should any one expect me as a diasporan armenian to buy into any possible deal when I am ignorant of the facts? The Turkish authorities must be “stupid” to engage in any discussions with unnamed Armenian parties who can not deliver if a deal is struck. And we know by experience that Turkish diplomacy is anything but stupid.So name these parties, if you can so that we know where we stand. Secondly it is hight time we start discussing a common, solid, uniform story line that represents a common Armenian stand at all levels so that in any POTENTIAL discussions nothing is lost because we have divergent views .

  9. Just as I see it... said:

    “Love is in the air…”

    What an interesting assortment of comments, ideas and notions!

    Here’s another option: Turkey simply withdraws from Armenia (seems there’d be no friendship lost between the two nations anyway!) and simply “adjust” her foreign policy with nations that support the idea of Armenian genocide. (I think France now has a pretty-good idea what that entails!)

    What do I mean? Simple! It seems the Armenians have a very long list of demands (the acceptance of only their version of the events, significant amounts of money, land and property, etc., etc.,) and nothing less will ever satisfy them. So, in turn the Turks can say: “Hey, there’s no way to hold a dialog with folks with such numerous and severe demands and well, we’re done with this, once and for all!” Put in another way, it isn’t Turkey that needs Armenia’s friendship but Armenia that needs Turkey for access and trade with the West, etc. The Armenians can then turn to their Russian “masters” for any such access!

    This would make the good-folks who’ve posted above “happy” right?! I mean, you certainly do not seem to have any positive “feelings” towards the Turks and Turkey and such a solution should be more than acceptable?

    As for me; there was once a time when I felt that Armenia and Turkey could form a lasting friendship. Now, I no longer hold on to such illusions. While I personally have nothing against Armenia, I’m fairly convinced that many folks in Armenia harbor much dislike and resentment of Turkey, the Turks and those who support them.

    When a nation looks longingly at another, dreaming of a time when it can usurp a third of that nation, nothing “positive” can come out of that “relationship.” The Turks should simply fortify their eastern and southeastern borders and just go from there. It may also be desirable to return to Armenia, any Armenians who’re currently residing illegally in Turkey.

    In closing: Let those who come with friendship in their hearts be rewarded with genuine friendship and dialog and let those who come with enmity be turned away until such a time when they can abandon the hatred…


  10. Tlkatintsi said:

    East and West Armenia? What the F–K are you people smoking?? Armenians can’t even take care of the one Armenia that exists today…All this talk is an illusion. Armenians will never return in any significant numbers to western Armenia if the land and a house was presented to them on a silver platter. Armenia continues to spew out people and no one is replacing them. Instead we have trash talk about two Armenia’s. And who exactly speaks for the diaspora on an international level – simple the government of the Republic of Armenia. Like it or not this is the reality. Instead of lobbying the U.S. administration in Washington, the diaspora should be lobbying the government in Yerevan. To do that, however, requires some collective diaspora thinking which seems impossible. Just look at the confusion the Protocols created in the diaspora. Every two-bit organization and “party” had their own opinion. Put together, all the organizations, dioceses, prelacies and groups in the diaspora probably only represent 10-15% of Armenians living outside the RA.

    • Heghapokhagan said:

      I don’t know how “Asbarez” allowed your (improper) talk to be posted… First of all!
      Second of all, you are either naive or underestimating the diaspora with your passive behavior.
      Third, I will not waist my precious time replying to your useless vulgar comments.

  11. Dave-us said:

    Americans (including Armenian ones) are prohibited from making agreements with foreign powers under the Logan Act so I don’t think you have to worry because any “agreement” wouldn’t be binding. Other countries may not have a similar law however. Armenia could pass a law voiding any non-Governmental “agreements”. As far as talking to any person or official, we’re free to speak to anyone we like.
    Preconditions could be useful. We all would agree that Turkey needs to return all confiscated Church properties. When they return them (don’t hold your breathe waiting), maybe we can talk some more. When you’re dealing with an infantile Turkish Govt., you need to take them along with “Baby Steps”.
    If you really want to see some “action”, start talking to the Kurds and Assyrians instead.