First Step – Capitulation


13:00:56 – 14/10/2009

The ill-constructed protocols signaling the beginning of formal
relations between Armenia and Turkey received an uncertain and
inauspicious signing in Zurich. The parties themselves and the
representatives of the world powers, all were present but all remained
silent. When such a ‘historic’ moment goes by with none of the sides
or the witnesses able to say anything acceptable to the rest, either
about the long-awaited event itself or the content of the documents
being signed – it becomes obvious that these documents are in fact
full of the contradictions and expectations that do not engender
the serious trust and respect necessary for stable and respectful
relations between countries.

Those within and outside Armenia who support this process label all
those against it as nationalists, extremists or those who categorically
reject all relations with Turkey. But I, and others like me, who
have for decades wanted and continue to believe in the importance of
Armenia-Turkey rapprochement are neither extremists or nationalists.

We are not afraid to recognize the enormous challenges of creating
a new relationship in the context of overwhelming political,
psychological, practical challenges. It is for fundamental political
and security reasons that we oppose these protocols. We want the
documents that define our reciprocal relationship to be respectful,
farsighted and most of all, sustainable. These protocols are not. We
want the documents to define a 21st century relationship that is as
honest about past grievances as it is about contemporary political
realities. These protocols are not.

Instead of an acknowledgement of the historic divide and mutual
distrust that separates us, or at the very least circumventing that
topic, the documents place one-sided conditions and receive one-sided
concessions. Normalization has thus begun with the capitulation of
the Armenian side.

Indeed these protocols – barely signed and not even ratified – have
already damaged, possibly irrevocably, Armenia’s positions on the three
most significant issues of national security and national identity.

First, they will hamper the resolution of the Karabakh conflict. The
reason for this is simple. Any Armenian insistence of no-linkage
between Armenia-Turkey and Armenian-Azerbaijani is not credulous. The
linkage between the Turkey border opening and the resolution of
the Karabakh conflict was clear from the beginning. Now, it’s
inarguable. If the presence of the Minsk Group co-chair countries’
foreign ministers at the signing wasn’t enough, there were the last
minute frantic attempts at the signing ceremony to prevent Turkey
from speaking of that linkage at that forum. But the coup de grace
was the Turkish Prime Minister’s unequivocal conditional announcement
the day after, buttressed by the strength of his ruling party whose
meeting had just concluded, that the Turkish Parliament won’t ratify
these protocols until territories are returned.

Any acceptable resolution will require certain compromise on the
Armenian side – including compromise on the territories surrounding
Karabakh. Many would say that such compromise would have been
necessary eventually regardless of Armenia-Turkey relations. This
is true. But in this conditional environment, when Turkey at every
opportunity refers to the return of territories without the resolution
of Karabakh’s status, even the most reasonable compromise that Armenia
would have been prepared to make will be more difficult for this or
any administration to make, because it will be viewed domestically
as a concession made under pressure, in exchange for open borders,
not for the independence of Karabakh. Even if the Turkish parliament
ratifies the protocols and opens the border with the mere expectation
that Armenians will return those territories in the near future, still,
in the context of the forceful and repeated admonitions by the Turkish
leadership, those expectations will themselves become conditions that
the border opening was in exchange for possible future concessions.

Second, the nature of the genocide debate has been deeply altered. The
ink on the protocols was not even dry before major news outlets and
international figures began to couch their terminology, retreating from
the use of the term genocide, citing the protocol’s provisions that a
commission will determine what the events of 1915 really were. In other
words, we have offered the international community the formalization
of official Turkey’s position. If earlier, Armenians and international
experts had defined the political and historical events as genocide,
while the official Turkish side insisted on denying the term and the
history behind the term, today, the official Turkish "doubts" have
been sanctioned and will internationalize the denial of the events,
their causes and consequences, and thus strengthen the historic and
demographic status quo. Armenians will now be dragged into a new
cycle of denial – struggling against the machinery of a state bent
on rewriting history and consolidating the consequences of genocide.

Finally, this document succeeds in touching what had heretofore
been a dormant but sensitive issue – the subject of borders and
territorial claims. No Armenian administration had ever made such a
claim of Turkey. Today, this sensitive issue has become a front-line
issue. When Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu says these
protocols reaffirm the provisions of the Lausanne Treaty, that means
the issue of reparation and compensation is now on the table. I do not
demand my ancestral home in Marash, but if that demand were really
so illusive, then why is Turkey forcing me to renounce my historic
links with that home?

It is important to understand that the claim on land is not merely
a sentimental issue having to do with Armenian properties in Turkey
100 years ago. The issue of lands is also an important element of
the Karabakh conflict. If a mere 100 years later, Turkey is able to
formalize and legalize its control of lands taken forcibly, then what’s
to prevent Armenians from waiting if that offers them the opportunity
to formalize their control of the lands surrounding Karabakh?

On Saturday, October 10, we heard President Sargsyan’s address to the
Armenian people, issued just hours ahead of the scheduled signing,
the content of which was directly contradictory to the content of the
protocols. It can even be said that the president’s arguments were the
best reasons to reject the protocols. The address insisted that there
are irrefutable realities and we have undeniable rights; the protocols
on the other hand question the first and eliminate the second. Armenia,
without cause and without necessity, conceded its historic rights,
both regarding genocide recognition and what the address so justly
called ‘hayrenazrkum’ – a denial and dispossession of our patrimony.

The administration said one thing and signed another. Normalization
of Armenia-Turkey relations, as an idea even, has been discredited.

The processes – both Armenia-Turkey, and the Karabakh peace talks –
are going to become more complicated and more intense, and not at all
to our advantage. If Armenia does not bring this process to a halt,
and return to square one, the consequences will be grave not just
for the administration, but for the Armenian people.

VARDAN OSKANIAN Aravot daily, 14 October

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