ANKARA: Armenian Diaspora: Focus On Russia Rather Than Turkey!


Hurriyet Daily News, Turkey
Dec 17 2013

“This is bad news for Armenia,” a member of the Armenian opposition
told me, in the first days following Ukraine’s surprise refusal to
sign an association deal with the European Union.

After Armenia, Ukraine appeared to be another country to succumb to
Moscow’s pressure to turn its back to the West and join a customs
union with Russia.

Ukraine has been on the international news agenda for days as thousands
pro-EU demonstrators took to the street. U.S. senators John McCain
and Chris Murphy were in Kiev on Sunday to address the crowds.

Nothing of that sort happened when Armenia surprised the EU by
announcing last September that it will join a customs union with
Russia, a move incompatible with the free trade agreement the EU was
preparing to sign with Yerevan.

Why is that? Aren’t there any pro-EU Armenians living in Armenia? Do
they all support closer, much closer, relations with Russia? Or are
they less courageous than Ukrainians in that there is such a reign
of terror that they are afraid of taking to the streets?

Why is the international community so indifferent to Armenia? Is
Armenia less important than Ukraine? With Russian soldiers protecting
its frontiers, is it seen as a lost cause anyway?

How about the Armenian diaspora in the West? How can they be so
indifferent to Armenia’s democratic deficit? How come they are unmoved
by Armenia’s slide to growing authoritarianism? How come they are
not concerned about Armenia remaining in the Russian orbit?

As Aybars Gorgulu, an expert on the issue put it, the Armenian
diaspora is so preoccupied by Turkey and securing recognition of
the 1915 tragedy that it seems they are completely blind of the fact
that Armenia will be destined to be in a pathetic state for as long
as it does not endorse democracy and get out of the Russian zone
of influence.

Actually, it seems that Turkey has also contributed to the deepening
of ties betweenRussia and Armenia. Fearful of the possibility of a
true reconciliation between Ankaraand Yerevan, Russia has weighed
in much more forcefully in Armenian affairs following the failure
of the 2009 initiative to normalize relations, according to Armenian
opposition members.

Yet the problem is that they are not even sure about what is really
happening. “We don’t hear (foreign minister Edward) Nalbandian. I
can’t recall when it was the last time he made a statement,” one of
them told me. “On issues of reconciliation with Azerbaijanor Turkey, it
is not Armenians but it is Russians who decide,” added the same person.

But the thinking in Moscow dictates that Armenia’s reconciliation
with either Turkey orAzerbaijan will not suit the Russia’s national
interests. However, there could be ways to convince Russia that a
tripartite reconciliation might not run against Moscow. But for that
Yerevan should become less dependent on Russia and the focus of key
players like the US and European states turn to the Caucasus. This
is where the Armenian diaspora can play a role.

But of course they have two choices: encouraged by 2015 approaching,
they might prefer to spend their money and energy on activities that
they think will put pressure on Turkey to recognize the 1915 tragedy
as genocide. It is naïve to expect this to happen in the absence
of comprehensive peace that would include Baku. Yet even if this
were to happen it wouldn’t solve Armenia’s problems given a lack of
progress on relations withBaku and as a result of borders with Turkey
remaining closed.

But of course the real question lies on whether the Armenian diaspora
is interested to see a democratic and prosperous Armenia or not.