Is the door to Armenia being opened?

09 November 2004,
Turkish Daily News
Mehmet Ali Birand

Is the door to Armenia being opened?

Turkey received a very interesting report from Yerevan last weekend.

The Armenian government, led by Robert Kocharyan, in its budget
proposal sent to the Armenian Parliament noted that, “The recognition
of the Armenian genocide by Turkey is not the government’s primary
foreign policy objective.” The government said the repair of relations
with Turkey was a priority.

If Kocharyan intends to implement such a serious policy shift, it
will soon become apparent. Policies implemented will show whether
this policy shift is sincere or just a false gesture.

I know Armenia and Kocharyan. The word “genocide” is such a mystical
and accepted concept that no matter how much we refute or try to
disprove it, we will not eradicate this belief. For an Armenian,
the word “genocide” will always remain in their national psyche.

For Turkey, it is just the opposite.

Genocide is unacceptable. No matter how much pressure they put on us,
no matter what the European Union tells us, a Turk will never accept
it. Blood was spilt on both sides. Unspeakable horrors were committed
and shameful things happened. We might exchange apologies because of
what happened, but never recognize “genocide.”

Armenia is a small and poor neighbor of ours. Turkey is a giant
knocking on the EU’s door. Should these two countries continue to
wage this genocide battle and always remain enemies? Or should both
sides preserve their beliefs, let the genocide issue drop from the
top of the agenda and try to find ways to mend bilateral relations?

Turkey has made a number of gestures in this respect.

When Turgut Ozal was prime minister, the Kars border crossing was
about to be opened. The Armenian invasion of Azerbaijan prevented
this from happening. When Suleyman Demirel was prime minister, he came
very close to signing a deal with the former Armenian President Levon
TerPetrosyan. These meetings, in which even the Nationalist Movement
Party (MHP) leader Alparslan Turkes took part, the motivation was
always, “Let’s freeze the past and look at today.”

Each time, it was the Armenians that withdrew. For Yerivan, the
priority always remained with the insistence of the Diaspora making
Turkey recognize the “genocide.”

Armenia, meanwhile, is trying to survive in its small world, isolated
from everywhere. Despite the fact that its only door to the West is
Turkey, it persists in following an impossible dream.

The news from Yerevan made me ask myself if this was a sincere policy
change. If true, we can say that this could be an historic turning
point for Armenia, Azerbaijan and Turkey.

Kocharyan is in a position to make this happen. He should not miss
this opportunity.