ANKARA: Gul Should Go To Yerevan For The Nat

Mehmet Ali Birand

Turkish Daily News
July 22 2008

I am sure you know about it. The new Armenian President Serj Sarkisyan
invited President Gul to Yerevan some time ago. The occasion is the
Word Cup qualification game to be played between Turkey and Armenia
on Sept. 6.

Ankara has yet to make up its mind about this invitation. Nor has
the Foreign Ministry announced its views on the matter. As you might
have guessed, the idea of our president going to Armenia in response
to an invitation from their president has made some hairs stand on
end. Awakened fears and suspicions as well as patriotism began to
take over.

The capital of ‘our enemy’:

Some said, "That is impossible. The Turkish president cannot go to the
capital city of our biggest enemy…" An increased number of people
spread fear out of various concerns… "We cannot let them swear at our
president…they will try to assassinate him…they will throw eggs…"

Cool-headed reflection, however, will show that it would be very
appropriate for President Gul to go to that game.

I don’t think that I need to explain to you at length the tight corner
that Turkey happens to be in on the international scene.

The genocide allegations have been accepted by a great majority of
Western countries. Furthermore, we have not been able to supply any
tangible or convincing evidence to refute these allegations. All
Ankara does is try to buy some time. That’s why it suggested forming
a commission of international historians, which did not please the
Armenians at all. According to them, the genocide wins a lot more
acceptance each day, and there is no need to jeopardize this "fact"
by establishing a commission. Both Turkey and Armenia are bidding for
favorable international public opinion. Each one wants to get its own
view accepted by looking as sweet and justified as possible. It was
in the midst of such circumstances that Armenia’s president issued
this invitation to Yerevan, maybe as a tactic or a genuine gesture
for rapprochement.

Yerevan has thrown out this invitation. Now I ask you: Would it be
better to go or not to go?

Let’s start with the easier option. Not to go would not come as a
surprise to anyone. This is the impression of Turkey that Armenians are
trying to promote, which many countries have already accepted as true:

A country that looks down upon and intimidates this tiny Armenia and
punishes it by closing its border gate in addition to having mistreated
as well as killed so many Armenians; a country that even refuses to
accept having effected a genocide.This being our image, nobody will
be surprised if we refuse this invitation to go to Yerevan, for that
is exactly what Ankara is expected to do. A country that pushes away
all Yerevan’s attempts for reconciliation…

If Gul goes:

On the other hand, everybody will be surprised if President Gul does
accept this invitation to go to Yerevan. This unexpected gesture will
lead them to listen to what Turkey has to say instead.They may think,
for the first time, that Turkey might be acting in good faith. They
might, also for the first time, recognize the good intention behind
the suggestion to form an international commission. Word will spread
that Turkey’s objective is not to harass Armenia, but to look for
a compromise.

Then there’s the Turkish team to consider… To see their president on
the tribunes is bound to build up their morale and provide them with
extra support during this game that they will probably be playing
in a hostile atmosphere. Furthermore, dramatic as they may be, such
developments could really lead to a rapprochement or a dialogue
between the two countries or even to a solution of this alleged
genocide situation. Sports have always played a part in diplomatic
relations. Games have been known to lead to diplomatic discussions that
in turn have led to agreements. This opportunity must not be missed
on account of a cheap show of patriotism. What’s more, President
Gul has the capacity to make the most of this opportunity. Finally,
Armenia must not be refused even if none of these expectations were
to come true.

Why get mad at Parris?

The words of Mark Parris, America’s former ambassador to Turkey,
caused a storm last week. Returning to Washington after having
consulted political observers and local foreign experts in Turkey,
Parris conveyed his impressions and answered questions at a conference
at the CSIS, or Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Parris had apparently read Ankara well, for his impressions as well
as his predictions were right on target.

The gist of what he said was that despite the still strong possibility
of the AKP’s closure, the last few weeks had brought some change
of atmosphere, in the way that other alternatives were also being

Was he wrong? He was dead right…

He then said that the Constitutional Court would probably announce
its decision during the first half of August and on a Friday to avoid
upsetting the stock exchange.

Wrong? Aren’t we making the same predictions? Well, you’d think
that all hell had broken loose.How come the American knew all
that?… Americans were telling us what to do… The ambassador
was dictating a date to Ankara… He was being disrespectful to the
Constitutional Court…

However, we do all that, too. I fail to understand the reason for all
that anger toward Parris. It must originate from our "this country
is run by America, the Americans know everything" complex…We tend
to forget that Parris is an expert that knows Turkey best and has
good relations with a number of sound sources. Isn’t it as natural
for him to state his views as it is for us to make these predictions?