BY HARUT SASSOUNIAN
It is a well-known fact that Turkish leaders are exceptional diplomats. However, as soon as they hear the words Armenian Genocide, Greece, Cyprus or Kurdistan, these diplomats lose their “cool” and resort to emotional outbursts and undiplomatic actions that harm their own interests.
Realizing that this is the 95th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide, Turkish officials have been nervously preparing themselves for the upcoming tsunami of commemorations that would remind the international community of the crimes against humanity committed by Ottoman Turks.
The first unexpected shot was fired on February 26 by the Parliament of the Autonomous Government of Catalonia, Spain, when it unanimously recognized the Armenian Genocide. Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu immediately contacted his Spanish counterpart and Catalonian officials venting his anger and demanding an apology!
Two days later, an expose of the Armenian Genocide was aired by CBS’s 60 Minutes, showing bones of Armenian victims still protruding from Syrian desert sands, almost a century later! The Turks were livid, accusing Armenians of unduly influencing the CBS network and questioning, as usual, the authenticity of the bones and the sand!
Four days later, the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee adopted a resolution acknowledging the Armenian Genocide. Turkey lost despite:
–Pressuring the Obama administration to oppose the resolution;
–Hiring multi-million dollar lobbying firms;
–Sending teams of Turkish parliamentarians to Washington;
–E-mail campaigns by Turkish and Azeri Americans; and
–Threatening to boycott U.S. defense contractors if they did not oppose the resolution.
Immediately after losing that vote, Turkey recalled its Ambassador from Washington, indicating that he may be kept in Ankara until after April 24. State Minister Zafer Caglayan postponed his U.S. visit, intended to develop economic ties, “until the United States corrects its mistake.” A scheduled trip by the executive board of the Turkish Industrialists’ & Businessmen’s Association to Washington on March 16 and 17 was also canceled, and anti-American protests were held in Turkish cities. More importantly, Prime Minister Erdogan indicated that he might cancel his planned participation in the global summit on nuclear security to be held in Washington next month.
Before Turkish passions had cooled down, Sweden’s Parliament dealt a second devastating blow to Ankara on March 11, by reaffirming the genocide of Armenians, Assyrians, and Greeks, by a vote of 131-130. Once again, Turkey recalled its Ambassador, and Prime Minister Erdogan canceled his upcoming trip to Stockholm which was to be accompanied by a large trade delegation. And, anti-Swedish demonstrations were held in several Turkish cities.
These overly dramatic reactions prompted Turkish and foreign commentators to have a field day, speculating that if more countries recognize the Armenian Genocide, Turkey won’t have ambassadors left anywhere in the world, and Turkish officials won’t be visiting other countries, having to cancel their overseas trips. Furthermore, Turkey would be left without any imported goods and a weakened military, having canceled all purchases from the outside world. Turkey’s isolation is a just retribution for its denialist policy. By trying to punish others, Turkey is simply punishing itself.
Vahe Magarian of Cincinnati, Ohio, sent a pointed letter to the New York Times last week, suggesting that Turkey’s recalled Ambassadors, “rather than flying home, should be made to march home on foot. Forced marches were the preferred means of travel during the dying days of the Ottoman Empire.”
Prominent Turkish commentator Can Dundar wrote in Haber1 an article titled: “Are we going to recall all our Ambassadors?” He stated that, at this rate, by the time the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide rolls around in 2015, there won’t be a single country left not accusing Turkey of genocide. Isn’t it about time that we search out what dirty work our fathers did 95 years ago? Shouldn’t we ask what did we do wrong, Dundar implored.
The main reason why Turkish officials panic every time the Armenian Genocide is acknowledged by yet another country is their fear of being asked to pay compensation for Armenian losses and return the occupied lands. Prime Minister Erdogan and his colleagues don’t seem to understand that Genocide recognition by itself does not lead to legal claims. How many inches of land have Armenians managed to liberate from Turkey as a result of such recognition by more than 20 countries? If Turkish leaders would only understand that parliamentary resolutions have no legal effect, maybe they would not get so excited over them!
Nevertheless, there should be no doubt that Armenians still demand the return of their ancestral lands located in Eastern Turkey. Such claims have to be pursued in various courts, unless an unexpected cataclysmic event occurs first, causing the collapse or dismemberment of the Turkish State.
In the meantime, we advise Mr. Erdogan to continue denying the Genocide at every opportunity, in order to encourage Armenians to persist in their efforts to expose Ankara’s lies. Were it not for Turkish officials’ vehement denials, there would not have been a worldwide outcry to reaffirm the facts of the Armenian Genocide by airing TV documentaries and adopting genocide resolutions.
Mr. Erdogan, please keep up the good work. Armenians need your kind assistance to pursue their cause until justice is done.