Beware of Superficial and Feel-Good Formulations: A Perspective, Before Obama Meets Erdogan


Raffi Hovannisian


Turkey has always had its share of decent folks.

One close example is the righteous family who, during the great genocide and national dispossession of 1915, risked its own to save my grandmother Khengeni from certain death in the coastal town of Ordu. The stories of thousands like them have not been told because of the Turkish state’s official dialectic of denial.

Apart from the remnant 50,000 of the established Armenian community, at least two million people in today’s Turkey draw lineage from an Armenian grandparent who was orphaned, stolen or saved—but in all cases Turkified—in the killing fields of Ottoman-occupied historic Armenia. Voiceless and in another kind of denial, these progeny of mixed marriages are only now taking their first tentative steps in search of their real identity.

In the wake of Hrant Dink’s still unsolved assassination by Turkey’s deep state and its racist speech laws, a new class of conscientious and independent-thinking Turks has begun to form amid a belated realization that Turkey can never graduate to the free world unless it faces the unprecedented evil in its historical closet. Still far from the mainstream, these brave new Turks know that their republic was founded not only on the deaths of millions of Armenians, Assyrians, Greeks and Kurds, but more viscerally on the systematic and complete erasure of the Armenian nation and its civilization from their ancestral heartland. They deserve full faith and credit in their quest to liberate their country from nearly 90 years of false pretense, fraudulent education, and exclusivist nation-building.


That is why the world’s movers and shakers have little ground for the kind of euphoria that they have widely been deploying to applaud the recent signature by the Turkish and Armenian governments of two protocols that promise, upon parliamentary ratification, to lead to Ankara’s ultimate agreement to open diplomatic relations with Yerevan and then to lift its long-standing blockade against it.

Superficial and feel-good formulations about the historic import of this development, whether they issue from Washington, Brussels or Moscow, seem purposefully to hide a few fundamental truths.

The current Armenian administration has no legitimate public standing to speak in this seminal matter on behalf of the Armenian people. Having come to power in 2007-08 through fraud, forgery, and the blood of scores of citizens, it now seeks to shore up its legitimacy deficit by reference to foreign-policy offerings which sound good to Western ears but which in fact seek surrogate rewards for authoritarian demeanor. Once again, the “international community” has moved dangerously to trump democratic principles and due process by its strong-armed resort to problem-solving geopragmatism.

The current Turkish administration is the successor to the Young Turk government that premeditated and executed the Armenian genocide and the corollary killing of homeland under the cover of World War I. It is the successor to the Kemalist movement which in 1920-21 entered into a creative complicity with Russia’s Bolsheviks to overturn US President Woodrow Wilson’s arbitral award respecting Armenia’s de jure frontiers through their occupation and partition of the newly-independent Republic of Armenia; to delimit a de facto boundary between Soviet Armenia and Turkey which amounted to a surgical usurpation of most of the Armenian patrimony; and to alienate the Armenian territories of Karabakh and Nakhichevan to Soviet Azerbaijan. This was the precursor to Molotov-Ribbentrop a generation later.

The Turkish-Armenian draft protocols presently being considered and congratulated include references to asserting the illegal de facto border without simultaneously resolving issues of redemption, restoration, and return which arise from the underlying crimes against humanity: both the Genocide and the ensuing Turkish-Russian conspiracy. Hence, they are ab initio invalid, immoral, and impolitic.

Most unfortunately, the papers on the table, as well-intentioned as they might be, and the PR posturing and point-scoring associated with them do not constitute the basis for a full and enduring regulation of the Turkey-Armenia relationship and a truly historic reconciliation between their peoples. They are pleasant—and deceptive—window dressing and nothing more.


When Turkey, Armenia, and the community of nations grow up to the gravity of the watershed challenge at hand, they will shift their gears, deliver on democracy and the rule of rights, and confront and correct history and its legacies of injustice. In this spirit, and far from positing resolution on Mountainous Karabakh as a precondition to Turkish-Armenian normalization, they will ultimately recognize its God-given, legitimate right to post-stalinist decolonization, liberty, and sovereign statehood.

And only in this way will we forge and then witness the region’s first post-genocide partnership.

Now is the time for the distinguished Turkish prime minister—and the American president whom he is set to visit shortly in Washington—to grasp that this is the final solution. Not the other one.

Raffi Hovannisian, who represents the opposition Heritage party in Parliament, was independent Armenia’s first Minister of Foreign Affairs.


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  1. Lusik said:

    In my understanding, the main reason of today’s economic crisis is due to rising power of economic twins of China and India. At the end, their transformation into an equal partner in the world economic realm – part of a final globalization, will add a positive dynamics to human life. Meanwhile, the process could be a less painful, if not the easy-money bubbles blown on Wall Street. Wall Street was flooded with people of great indifference and incompetence, as described by B. Madoff. These bubbles were periodically brought down by Greenspan, and less successfully now, by Bernanke.  The point is, that there is a federal body watching the condition – fluidity, density and transparency, of the process. /// Overall the globalization will rearrange countries – some of them will move from first category to second and some, in reverse. As part of the process, the USA will become an equal, accountable party in front of the international community in terms of its foreign politics. Bubbles, which are blown up today in this department with an astonishing irresponsibility, are of high incompatibility and low sustainability. Foreign politics of the USA is today a hostage to many semi-private internal and external businesses. While the rate of aggravation is rising, there is no federal “watchdog” (neither CIA, nor FBI are powerful) to prevent a disaster – final collapse of the American International Reputation, since there is no “Greenspan” or “Bernanke” in this field. The high hope, that with arrival of young president America is on the way back to the hearts of world people, has cooled down unattended. Obama evaluates the gravity of a new bill deliverance for just few month ahead. Obama’s best skill is unmasked demonstration of a difference between “know just” and “we need”. /// Among many questions to the 2012 election candidate will be: Why did leading democrats supported deployment of about 40000 in Afghanistan? First reason is semi-personal – none of them is going to run for presidency in 2012. They do not mind – first sign of unhealthy politics. Second is that the bill on war was delivered by president in a few days going to Sweden to be decorated with NPP. So, one controversy after another will eventually force him to step down. It seems, that the USA government becomes weary of Obama – somebody constantly has to do homework for him. /// In my understanding, Armenia has to cool down, pause in its foreign diplomacy. Observe and plan. Form necessary structures for informed, fruitful and dignifying actions. Identify and strengthen allies. Armenia can not afford being on front arena during this transitional period. It means a final discard (after being used), means being smashed and crashed. /// As to the Obama’s administration, it should know that each Armenian today updates files sent to the International court, to be activated, when a single harm is done to the stability of Armenia and Artsakh. Not the “stability” put in mouth of its Armenian marionettes. The true meaning of the word, lost in debris of his rhetoric.

  2. Barkev Asadourian said:

    It’s  about  the  time
    great  Article
    Thank  you  Mr. R.Hovanesian

  3. Armen said:

    Bravo ! Excellent commentary ! I hope Presidents Obama and Erdogan read this, to realize that there are things other than pipeline diplomacy in foreign politics.

  4. Araxi said:

    I don’t think he is not true to his word. This is called ‘diplomicy’ that takes people for a ride. Not long ago Raffi Hovhannisian supposedly put down his mandate in the Armenian Parliament, now he is back. Perhaps he has the Presidency in mind and is collecting early votes? We will live and see. Mark my words, he stood by Levon Ter Petrossian for a long time, now he has supposedly broken away from HAK. With all due respects to my compatriots, I wish they were less gullible.

  5. Araxi said:

    Sorry a typing error! The above should say: ‘I don’t think he is true to his word.’

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