BY HARUT SASSOUNIAN
Two developments on Armenian-Turkish issues spilled a lot of ink last week. Neither one was significant, but assumed significance because of extensive international media coverage.
On April 22, exactly a year after the release of the roadmap, ostensibly to normalize Armenia-Turkey relations, and six months after the infamous Protocols were signed by the two countries with great fanfare, Pres. Serzh Sargsyan announced their suspension.
There was actually nothing new in this announcement. It has been crystal clear for months that Turkey’s leaders never intended to ratify the Protocols. They simply wanted to exploit them in order to extract further concessions from Armenia. Turks repeatedly announced that unless Armenia turned over Karabagh (Artsakh) to Azerbaijan, the Turkish Parliament would not ratify the Protocols. As time went by, Turkey added more inane demands, such as reversal of the Armenian Constitutional Court’s decision, and withdrawal of genocide resolutions from Parliaments of other countries. Since Armenia had repeatedly announced that it would not be the first to ratify the Protocols, the accords were already frozen for months, if not stillborn.
Even though some may view Pres. Sargsyan’s decision as a bold move, it would have been far more preferable for him to withdraw his country’s signature from the Protocols, since they were dead in the water anyway. He could have easily blamed their collapse on Turkey’s intransigence. He did acknowledge in his last week’s public announcement that he decided to suspend the Protocols, after Russia, France and the United States asked him not to abandon them completely.
Now that Armenia has blinked first, Turkey is blaming it for causing the collapse of the Protocols. Armenia has thus helped Turkey to wiggle its way out of the intense international pressure it was subjected to in recent months for its failure to ratify them.
Moreover, as long as the Protocols are not completely discarded, Turkey will continue to exploit them by cleverly claiming that it is still committed to their ratification under the “right” conditions, and will use them as a viable tool to defeat all initiatives by third countries on the Armenian Genocide.
Regrettably, Turkey is not the only country exploiting the Protocols. Pres. Obama, after pressuring Armenia not to reject the Protocols, dodged the term “Armenian Genocide” once again in his annual statement. He used as an excuse the non-existent “dialogue among Turks and Armenians.”
Just as he had done last year, Pres. Obama substituted the term “Meds Yeghern” [Great Calamity] for the Armenian Genocide and used the same worn out euphemisms and shameful word games for which, as a Senator and presidential candidate, he had condemned Pres. George W. Bush.
The overwhelming majority of Armenian-Americans, who had supported Obama’s candidacy and trusted him, now feel disillusioned and deceived. He ran his campaign on the promise of change, only to adopt the same immoral position of his predecessors, even though he keeps saying that he has not changed his mind regarding his pledge to acknowledge the Armenian Genocide!
In a column I wrote last year after Pres. Obama first broke his campaign promise on the Armenian Genocide, I stated that Armenian-Americans do not need to beg him to acknowledge the Genocide. Thirty years ago, Pres. Reagan issued a Presidential Proclamation referring to the Armenian Genocide. Therefore, Armenian-Americans see no special advantage in a repeat statement by Pres. Obama. By not keeping his word, however, Pres. Obama succeeded in undermining his own reputation and credibility with the American people and world public opinion.
It is simply mind-boggling that the President of the United States would go out of his way to issue a statement that would alienate the very people he is trying to accommodate.
Just imagine what the outcry would be had Pres. Obama referred to the Holocaust as a massacre or a tragic event. Yet, this is exactly what he has done on the Armenian Genocide by using a series of euphemisms in his April 24 statement: “Dark past,” “Dark moment in history,” “painful history.” “awful events of 1915,” ” a devastating chapter,” “one of the worst atrocities of the 20th century,” “murder,” and “terrible events.” Pres. Obama’s aides could have spent their time more usefully by reading a history book rather than a dictionary of synonyms.
The only new idea in Pres. Obama’s April 24, 2010 statement is the following brief sentence: “I salute the Turks who saved Armenians in 1915.” This is a commendable notion which unfortunately becomes devoid of any meaning, in the absence of who or what exactly these Armenians were saved from!
We all hope that the solemn commemorations next April 24 would not be tarnished either by the Protocols (frozen or thawed) or by Pres. Obama’s offensive statement!