ANKARA: What If Congress Adopts The ‘Genocide’ Resolution?

View By Sahin Alpay

Today’s Zaman, Turkey
Feb 12 2007

A resolution instructing the US President to declare as "genocide" the
Armenian massacres in Ottoman Turkey was recently introduced once more
to the House of Representatives, as has been the case every other year.

Like the previous ones, the Bush administration has made it clear
that it is opposed to the adoption of the resolution. The present
Turkish government, also like the previous ones, is exerting great
effortS to stop the adoption of the resolution.

This time; however, the adoption of the resolution seems more
likely than ever. This is because the Democratic Party, which has
traditionally been more sympathetic toward the resolution, is in
control of the Congress, and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi
reportedly highly supports the resolution. The horrendous murder of
Turkish Armenian journalist and editor-in-chief of Agos weekly Hrant
Dink is also said to have increased the number of representatives
likely to vote in favor.

The adoption of the resolution by the US Congress will not, however,
mean the recognition of the "Armenian genocide" by the US government,
since the resolution is of a nonbinding character. The following
will happen:

The US Congress will join the list of parliaments that have since
1965 adopted resolutions, reports or declarations of recognition
of the "Armenian genocide." The countries whose parliaments have
adopted "genocide" resolutions (in chronological order) so far
are the following: Uruguay (1965), Greek Cyprus (1982), Argentina
(1993), Russia (1995), Greece (1996), Lebanon (1997), Belgium (1998),
Vatican (2000), Italy (2000), France (2001), Switzerland (2003), Canada
(2004), Slovakia (2004), Holland (2004), Poland (2005), Germany (2005),
Venezuela (2005) and Lithuania (2005). (The Swedish parliament adopted
a report to that effect in year 2000, but reverted later on.)

Now we can pose a number of questions. Have the resolutions adopted by
the parliaments of countries listed above led to the deterioration of
bilateral relations between Turkey and the governments of countries
involved? It does not seem possible to give an affirmative answer to
this question. Turkey does not, anyway, recognize the Greek Cypriot
government. It is certain that Turkish – Greek relations have much
improved since 1999. Relations between Turkey and Russia have during
recent years improved on an unexpected scale. The level of support
for EU membership among the Turkish public has certainly decreased
during the last two years, but this surely cannot be explained by the
effect of "genocide" resolutions adopted by parliaments of a number
of EU member states.

How, then, would the adoption of the resolution by Congress affect
bilateral relations between Turkey and the US? It would not be
prophetic to say the very negative attitudes among the Turkish public
toward the US, chiefly because of the Iraq policies pursued by the
Bush administration, are likely to get even stronger, and that this
is likely to be more to the detriment of the US than Turkey.

Would the adoption of the resolution by Congress prove that Ottoman
Turkey had pursued a genocidal policy toward its Armenian citizens
in the period between 1915 – 1923? No, it would not. Some people
will continue to insist that the tragedy which led, according to
objective sources, to the deaths of at least 650 thousand Ottoman
Armenians was the result of a decision by the Ottoman government to
exterminate the Armenians. Others; however, will continue to argue
that the decision for forced deportation of Armenians was not aimed at
their extermination, but that the deaths were the result of famine,
disease, and massacres by tribal elements and security forces acting
on their own.

Will the adoption of the resolution by Congress help inform the Turkish
public at large on the great tragedy that befell the Ottoman Armenians
in the 1915 – 16 period? No, it can hardly be expected that it will
help improve research and broaden the debate on the history of the
final period of the Ottoman Empire. If indeed the Turkish public
opinion is more informed today than yesterday about what befell the
Ottoman Armenians, the contribution of "genocide" resolutions to this
can be said to be close to null.

Would the adoption of the resolution by Congress help the consolidation
and strengthening of liberal and pluralist democracy in Turkey
as supposedly desired by the West? No, it would not. This, on the
contrary, would serve the interests of those reactionary forces in
Turkey who would like to pull the country out of the civilized world.

Would the adoption of the resolution by Congress help normalize
bilateral relations between Turkey and Armenia, and lead to the
establishment of diplomatic relations and opening of borders between
the two countries? Surely not, because the position of those in Turkey
who are in favor of such normalization will not be strengthened.

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