Turkey Frets Looming US Recognition of Genocide


Turkish President Abdullah Gul

Prospects are high for a US recognition of the Armenian Genocide by the incoming administration of president elect Barack Obama, a leading member of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation said Tuesday, reiterating his party’s calls for Yerevan not to buckle under Turkish pressure by accepting a package deal that would see, among other things, the establishment of a joint study on the genocide in exchange for normal ties.

For years, Turkey has anxiously pushed for an intergovernmental commission to examine the events of 1915, hoping Yerevan would eventually be forced to green light the initiative to ease the economic strains caused by the Turkish blockade.

The two countries have seen a thaw in relations since President Serzh Sarkisian met with his Turkish counterpart in Armenia to watch a soccer game against their national teams.

The meeting, which kicked off a series of negotiations between the Turkish and Armenian foreign ministers, raised prospects that Ankara was ready to normalize relations with Yerevan.

But the dialogue between the two countries that began with Gul’s visit to Yerevan has apparently stalled, the ARF’s Political Director, Kiro Manoyan, told reporters at the Patarak press club, citing as the reason Turkey’s unwillingness to budge on a series of deman’s requiring Armenia to drop genocide recognition, accept Turkey’s territorial integrity, and relinquish Karabakh.

He said Turkish officials are being told by Washington insiders to quickly conclude an agreement with Armenia to “prevent recognition [of the Genocide] by the United States.”

Ankara has warned Washington against recognizing the Armenian Genocide, saying it would hurt the current reconciliation process.

Manoyan noted, however, that a US recognition of the genocide would have the opposite effect, leaving Turkey with little option but to follow suit or risk damaging its projected image as a positive actor in the region.

Recognition by the United States would, in fact, be very helpful to Turkey and the international community at large, according to Andrew Kzirian of the US based Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA).

“This action would demonstrate that even among friends, historical reality is honored and in fact could help diplomatic relations to be based on honest and open communications,” said Kzirian, the Executive Director of the ANCA’s Western Region.

But Turkey’s increasing pressure to “force the issue of progressing diplomatic communication is obviously motivated by an insincere purpose,” Kzirian noted, pointing to Ankara’s efforts to derail the US from going on record about the genocide.

Over the past few months, the Turkish government has launched an intense media blitz to distort the present reality, misquoting officials, and wrongly reporting developmen’s.

“These deceitful practices are all driven by the intense desire to fabricate a full-blown diplomatic rapprochement when Turkey still refuses to open the border and deman’s other concessions from Yerevan,” Kzirian sad. “All this is intended to stifle genocide recognition by the US government in the coming months.”

The ARF has long urged Yerevan to be cautious in its diplomatic relations with Turkey. Earlier this month its Bureau issued a statement reiterating that point, warning that the Turkish government is manipulating Yerevan’s olive branch to scuttle “the genocide recognition process,” and make “relations between the two states conditional on Armenia’s relations with a third country, Azerbaijan.”

The statement, issued on December 1 after a three day plenary session of the party’s governing body, stressed the strategic importance of genocide recognition for Armenia’s foreign policy.

Manoyan stressed that point, saying the impact of international recognition of the crime would be bolstered by a US affirmation.

“The primary objective for the recognition process is to nudge Turkey into recognizing the Genocide,” he explained, adding that those efforts are approaching a tipping point as a result of increasing discussion on the genocide in Turkish society.

“Though Turkey is far from recognizing the fact of the Genocide, Turkish society is finally beginning to recognize its history,” he said, commenting on a recent petition issued by Turkish academics apologizing for the crime.

The apology for the “great catastrophe” came in an open letter that invites Turks to sign an online petition supporting its sentimen’s

“My conscience does not accept the insensitivity showed to and the denial of the Great Catastrophe that the Ottoman Armenia’s were subjected to in 1915,” the letter said. “I reject this injustice and for my share, I empathize with the feelings and pain of my Armenian brothers. I apologize to them.”

Echoing those sentimen’s, nearly 300 Armenian intellectuals and other public figures early this week appealed to Turkey’s president to end his government’s denial of the genocide, saying that Turkey’s recognition of the crime is a necessary condition for reconciliation between the two countries.

“I think this letter is significant in the sense that it originated from Armenia and clearly reflects our public’s view that it is impossible to evade the issue of genocide recognition,” Manoyan told reporters. “International recognition of the Armenian Genocide remains a priority for the Republic’s foreign policy.”

The Armenian government should recognize the potential of these developmen’s, Manoyan said, urging Yerevan to adopt a concrete policy on the genocide that rejects any proposals for a joint study of its facts.

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