HOLLYWOOD–Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan appeared on the Charlie Rose show in New York on Tuesday evening to discuss his meeting with President Obama in Washington DC earlier this week. Speaking on Prime-Time television, he directly linked the normalization of his country’s relations with Armenia to a pro-Azerbaijani settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and called the Armenian Genocide a complete lie.
The Turkish Premier, whose comments were broadcast on prime-time television, responded by denying the Armenian Genocide, saying the annihilation of 1.5 million Armenians by the Ottoman Turkish government in the early 20th century was “completely a lie.”
“I can say very clearly that we do not accept genocide,” he said.
“I invite people to prove it. I wrote a letter in 2005, and I said that this is not up to politicians. It is up to historians to look into this,” Erdogan said about the crime against humanity that has been acknowledged and condemned by the International Association of Genocide Scholars.
Erdogan sought to marginalize efforts to condemn genocide in the United States Congress, describing the humanitarian cause as “lobbying and going to politicians and asking them to take certain decisions.”
In another question, Rose asked Erdogan if he spoke to Obama about his country’s rapprochement with Armenia. Erdogan, who said Armenia-Turkey ties was high on the agenda of his talks with Obama, used the opportunity to vocalize, on US television, his administration’s preconditions on Armenia to accept a pro-Azerbaijani solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict before its relations with Turkey can be normalized.
“It was Turkey that initiated the normalization process,” Erdogan said.”What we would like to see is for this normalization process to go forward. And in that it’s important that we go into that and the Karabakh issue between Azerbaijan and Armenia be resolved. There is an occupation. We have to solve that problem.”
“The [Karabakh] problem has to be solved,” he said. “And once that problem is solved then that region will be a region of peace. Why? Because once the problem between Azerbaijan and Armenia is solved, that hatred is going to dissipate. There is the decision of the United Nations Security Council which will be implemented. And the problems between Turkey and Armenia will definitely be resolved. I believe in it.”
The lack of a settlement on the Karabakh front, Erdogan asserted, was the reason for the Turkish Parliament’s hesitation on ratifying protocols mending ties between Armenia and Turkey.
“It’s the Turkish parliament who has to make a decision on this agreement between Turkey and Armenia. They have to approve it,” Erdogan said.
“The Turkish parliament too is very sensitive about this issue. And if the positive developments that we would like to see do not come about, then I do not believe that our parliament will have a positive result as a result of its deliberations,” he said. “We will have a secret ballot, but I don’t believe that without any other positive developments there will be a positive outcome.”
In anticipation of Erdogan’s denialist rhetoric, Armenian Americans sent letters to the Charlie Rose show, expressing concern with the Turkish politician’s appearance on the show and asking that the broadcast journalist speak truth to power on air and challenge Erdogan on his government’s bullying of Armenia into conceding its national interests. The letters, detailed the facts surrounding the Turkish-Armenian normalization process and asked Rose to “to use your influence to confront Mr. Erdogan with these facts.”
“Please ask Mr. Erdogan how he can possibly reconcile his position that the implementation of these protocols is dependent upon a resolution of the Nagorno-Karabagh issue concerning Azerbaijan, which he has enunciated over and over again, most recently today at the White House,” the letter said.
It also provided Rose with a list of possible questions to ask Erdogan during his interview: “You may ask why Armenia would sign the protocols with Turkey if they are so clearly one-sided in Turkey’s favor? The only explanation is that Armenia is a small land-locked country which is blockaded from its western border by Turkey and from its eastern border by Azerbaijan. It has virtually no resources to survive. It is a fledgling republic with deep economic woes. It is being pressured by the U.S., Europe, and Russia to reconcile its differences with Turkey in exchange for promises of international aid which it desperately needs. And what is Turkey conceding in these negotiations? Zero. Just ask Mr. Erdogan to list one single thing that Turkey has given up in exchange for peace with Armenia. He will be unable to do so. Turkey may as well have single-handedly drafted these protocols and forced Armenia to sign them, and it is only Turkey which will benefit if the protocols are actually implemented when it suddenly gains open access to Armenia’s vulnerable free markets.”
Neither of those questions or issues were asked by Rose during his interview.