ANKARA: Which Armenian Issue?

Zaman, Turkey
Aug 7 2004


Which Armenian Issue?

During Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s tour of France, one of
the most anticipated meetings was the one with Socialist Party leader
Francois Hollande.

Because in previous statements, the party had emphasized that it
expected the Armenian issue to be taken up in the human rights
context. It seems that the prime minister’s visit did not change the
other side’s expectation. In other words, the French Socialist Party
wants Turkey to make a gesture concerning the events that happened in
1915, which perhaps will not even necessitate a debate on “genocide.”
That is to say, it wants Turkey to accept that these events took
place. On the other side, it is obvious that there is no such
condition in terms of the Copenhagen Criteria because these criteria
were determined collectively for all the countries concerned.
Therefore, handling specific historical, geographical or cultural
problems of countries in the “human rights” context, could turn into
a sort of psychological condition according to the disposition of the
person or institution dealing with the issue. This is extremely
natural because European Union (EU) membership is both a legal and
political issue; and the political aspect of the issue cannot be
independent of the perceptions, expectations and domestic policies of
the societies.

However, this situation causes historical events, like those in 1915,
to be protracted and become a natural part of today’s politics.
Hence, many different Armenian issues surface… Today, European Union
(EU) institutions, the Armenian diaspora, Armenia, the government of
the Turkish Republic as well as the state, and finally, the Armenian
congregation in Turkey, all have different perceptions of the
“Armenian issue,” and the political functions and meanings of these
approaches may differ from one other. Therefore, the critical point
is how to shape the required strategy that will make Turkey play an
active role both in the EU process and in its own geography. Here,
three important factors come to the fore: The first one is naturally
Turkey’s own objectives, its responsibility before its own eyes and
its position before its own society. The second point is what the
right attitude should be when looking forward in light of the
globalization process in the world. And the third is to what extent
honesty over historical facts would be adopted…

Such an analysis cannot arise independently of the mentality you
possess; however, if being active in the future world is desired,
then the probable mentality of the future needs to be shared. What
this implies is that a solution to the Armenian problem needs to be
sought with a democratic mentality. Above all, this approach implies
being open to talks, and basically, Turkey talking to itself. For
example, the fact that Turkish historians with different approaches,
still cannot come together on the same platform, is an attitude that
implies that they are dodging the truths. Turkey taking this
[positive] step will bring two advantages: On one side, “a moment to
take a breath,” that will ensure the elimination of accusations
reflected from “abroad” will be gained, and the depression caused by
the “illegitimate” attitude carried out so far will be eradicated. On
the other side, Turkey will be able to come closer to some of the
“different Armenian issues” hovering around, it will particularly be
able to bring to the agenda different aspects of this event thanks to
approaches that will include Armenians living in Turkey and various

The distinguishing aspect of the “genocide” concept kills the debate
and makes the quest of living together more difficult. However, it is
necessary to see that the logic of mutual conflict, that reaches the
point of rejecting historical events, will not benefit any of the
sides. The Turkish Republic overlooking this fact is a burden too
heavy to bear before the international community.

Aug 6, 2004