BY HARUT SASSOUNIAN
The title of this article, taken from Walter Scott’s epic poem, the Marmion, aptly describes the web of deceit weaved by Turkey’s leaders in seeking to create the false impression of wanting to normalize relations with Armenia.
Under the guise of opening the border and establishing diplomatic relations with Armenia, Turkish officials actually intended to: 1) extract concessions from Armenia – returning Karabagh (Artsakh) to Azerbaijan, forming a historical commission to review the facts of the Genocide, and blocking territorial demands from Turkey; 2) prevent the acknowledgment of the Armenian Genocide by third countries, particularly the United States; and 3) generate a positive image in order to facilitate Turkey’s entry into the European Union.
If Turkey was sincere in its expressed desire to open the border with Armenia, it could have done so just as easily and quickly as it did when closing it in 1993. There was no need for lengthy negotiations, convoluted protocols, and parliamentary ratification. Furthermore, rather than demanding concessions, Turks should have offered inducements to Armenia for agreeing to open the border, because with closed borders, Turkey cannot join the EU.
Ever since April 22, 2009, when the first concrete step was taken by the Foreign Ministers of Armenia and Turkey by issuing a roadmap for normalizing their relations, Turkish leaders continued to state that they won’t open the border with Armenia without first resolving the Artsakh conflict. Even after signing the Protocols on October 10, 2009 and submitting them to Parliament eleven days later, the Turkish government still insisted that the border would remain closed until Artsakh was returned to Azerbaijan.
Since none of the major powers supported the precondition on Artsakh, Turkey’s leaders used the January 12, 2010 verdict of Armenia’s Constitutional Court as a new excuse for not ratifying the Protocols in the last four months. Even though the Court ruled that the obligations stipulated by the Protocols complied with the constitution, the Ankara leadership expressed dissatisfaction in order to cover up its intent not to ratify the Protocols. Turkey demanded that the Court “correct” its decision, just because it had blocked the unwarranted interpretations and preconditions of the Turkish side.
Unable to convince Armenia to meet their demands, Turkish officials approached Russia, the United States, and Switzerland (the mediator on the Protocols) to apply pressure on Armenia “to correct” the Constitutional Court’s decision. Once again, the Turks were rebuffed.
Last week, Turkey stumbled on a new excuse not to ratify the Protocols — the announcement by Cong. Howard Berman (Dem.-CA), Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, that his panel would take up the Armenian Genocide resolution on March 4.
Even though the genocide resolution is unrelated to the Protocols, a few days before Cong. Berman’s announcement, Turkey’s new Ambassador to Washington, Namik Tan, warned the U.S. Congress against such a move and boldly predicted that such a resolution would not come up for a vote “this year or anytime in the future.” Amb. Tan’s warning clearly exposed Turkey’s hidden agenda to bury the acknowledgment of the Armenian Genocide at every opportunity.
Now that the genocide resolution is scheduled for a vote, what would the Turks do? They are caught in their own web of deceit! If they rush to ratify the Protocols in order to prevent the adoption of the resolution, they would antagonize their Azeri ally and create internal political turmoil. On the other hand, if Turkey does not ratify the Protocols very soon, there is a high probability that the genocide resolution would receive congressional approval this year.
Meanwhile, Washington is losing patience with Turkey’s repeated excuses for dragging its feet on the Protocols. In retaliation, the Obama administration could use the genocide resolution as a stick to prod Turkey into ratifying the Protocols. Moreover, Turkey cannot count on much political support from Israel or American-Jewish organizations in order to block the genocide resolution, due to the incessant insults hurled by Prime Minister Erdogan at Israeli leaders over the past year.
By refusing to ratify the Protocols, Turkey has taken away from the Obama administration its excuse for not acknowledging the Armenian Genocide. Despite his repeated campaign promises, Pres. Obama refrained from using the term Armenian Genocide in his April 24, 2009 statement. He had unwisely adopted the duplicitous Turkish line that third countries should not acknowledge the Armenian Genocide, while Armenia and Turkey were trying to normalize their relations.
It is noteworthy that when Philip Gordon, Assistant Secretary of State, was asked last week to comment on the likely impact of the Armenian Genocide resolution on the Protocols, he insisted that they be ratified without preconditions. Significantly, he did not use the occasion to express any opposition to the resolution.
Any attempt by the administration to block the congressional resolution would be highly embarrassing for Pres. Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, since all three as Senators and presidential candidates had issued strong statements in support of acknowledging the Armenian Genocide.
Since Obama administration officials have repeatedly stated that the Protocols have no preconditions, then there should be no reason for them to object to the adoption of the genocide resolution.
It should be stated that in normal circumstances there would be no need for further action by the President or Congress on recognition of the Armenian Genocide which is already an acknowledged fact. In 1975 and 1984, the U.S. House of Representatives adopted resolutions recognizing the Genocide and Pres. Reagan acknowledged it in his Presidential Proclamation of 1981. However, in view of Turkey’s devious designs to roll back the international recognition of the Armenian Genocide, it is imperative that the United States government reaffirm its acknowledgment. This would also be an appropriate response to the deceptive Turkish tactics of using the Protocols to extract concessions, under the false pretense of opening the border with Armenia.