New York–On March 7, over 300 Armenian Americans gathered at the New York Hilton to discuss “Armeno-Turkish Relations: Pitfalls and Possibilities,” at a public forum organized by the Armenian Revolutionary Federation New York and New Jersey committees. The event featured insights by a diverse panel of speakers including former US Ambassador to Armenia, John Evans; Chairman of the Armenian National Committee of America, Ken Hachikian; Chairman of Armenian Education Foundation in Modern Armenian History, Dr. Richard Hovannisian; and, Emeritus Professor of History at University of Michigan, Dr. Dennis Papazian.
“We appreciate the views and analysis of each of our panelists, as we explore the serious implications of the Turkey-Armenia Protocols for the Armenian nation,” stated ARF New York’s Raffi Mahserdjian, who opened the forum. “We look forward to hosting similar events in the future to tackle fundamental issues facing our community in the New York-New Jersey area and around the world.”
Prior to the presentations, community leaders were invited to a reception hosted by Mrs. Virginia Davies in honor of the panelists. The event was made possible by donation from Ms. Sue Aramian. ARF New Jersey’s Ani Tchaghlasian served as Mistress of Ceremonies, moderating the program which focused on the ramifications of the Turkey-Armenia protocols, signed last October amidst great controversy and marred by Turkish Government preconditions designed to secure Armenian concessions in the Nagorno Karabagh peace process and derail international Armenian Genocide affirmation efforts. Panelists also discussed Armenian-American efforts to affect policy in the United States as well analyses of the power dynamics at play in the Caucasus region.
Amb. Evans addressed issues in the Protocols themselves and the steps taken throughout the process. He commended the Armenian Government impulse to engage in the process, arguing that establishing diplomatic relations with a neighboring state and seeking an open border is normal. He noted, however, that the preconditions set by the Turkish Government had been clear from the very beginning. One of the major flaws that Amb. Evans pointed out is that the Protocols are supposed to be based on international principles yet the document completely omits the words “self-determination” while including “territorial integrity.” Additionally, Amb. Evans cited the troublesome lack of transparency and proper public education in the effort.
Hachikian spoke to the uneven balance of power between Turkey and Armenia – economically, militarily, and geographically and how Turkey has used this reality to punish Armenia, citing the illegal blockade as just one example. Hachikian stated, “What we have here, I would argue, is an abuser-abused relationship that is ultimately based upon threats and a bed of lies”. Hachikian also spoke to the heightened Obama Administration opposition to the Armenian Genocide Resolution following passage by the House Foreign Affairs Committee last week. “This position is morally and practically equivalent to the US being explicitly complicit in Turkey’s genocide denial posture,” argued Hachikian.
Dr. Hovannisian spoke to the preconditions that are implicitly referenced in the Protocols. “Even though the words Armenian Genocide or Treaty of Kars are not mentioned, we know they clearly run through every aspect of the document.” He also argued that the Diaspora should have been more involved with the process since it addresses Armenian-Turkish reconciliation – an issue pertinent to Armenians worldwide.
Dr. Papazian spoke to the power dynamics that exist in the Caucasus region, explaining that it is not just Armenia-Turkey relations that must be considered, but also the roles of Russia, Iran, Georgia, Azerbaijan, as well the interests of Europe and the United States. Papazian argued that to be effective we must be able to understand all the geo-politics involved. In regards to the Protocols, he noted that despite the imperfect nature of the agreement, Turkey should not be allowed to secure a public relations victory for supporting the effort.
A lively question-and-answer session followed the presentations.