The deafening silence from Yerevan after the ill-timed announcement of a “roadmap” deal last week continues to fuel speculation on whether there are preconditions attached to the agreement and what role did the deal play in President Obama’s decision to defy his campaign pledge.
“Turkey seems to have been motivated to produce a headline-grabbling initiative by the prospect of the US president, Barack Obama, pushing the US closer to formal recognition of the 1915 events as genocide. Mr. Obama’s personal position on the issue is clear: he accepts the Armenian version. However, he has declared himself willing to hold fire if this will help the cause of normalizing Armenian-Turkish ties,” said a piece entitled “Cooling Off” in the Economic Intelligence Unit Briefing.
In a report published in the Hurriyet Daily Wednesday, unnamed sources, once again, are asserting that there was “an implicit threat” by Obama to use the word “genocide” in his April 24 statement. This “threat” was “pivotal to strong-arming Turkey and Armenia out of their deadlock,” according to Hurriyet.
The newspaper reports that the so-called threat was first used by Obama on April 7 at a meeting with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and later by US negotiators, adding that Obama told urged the announcement of a deal before April 24
“The deal was concluded on April 22 after lengthy negotiations in both Yerevan and Ankara, under the mediation of U.S. officials. Matt Bryza, U.S. assistant secretary of state, conducted 14 hours of marathon talks with the Armenians in Yerevan while talks in Ankara were conducted between the U.S. Ambassador to Turkey James Jeffrey and Foreign Ministry Undersecretary Ertugrul Apakan,” writes Hurriyet.
“In those talks the Turkish side insisted on a reference to Nagorno-Karabakh. Ankara specifically sought a pledge to withdraw from at least five of seven regions surrounding Nagorno-Karabakh that Armenia had occupied in addition to the enclave, to use as a bargain chip. Armenians refused to bow to U.S. pressure, however, the Turkish side was asked to accept the deal without reference to the Nagorno-Karabakh problem. Turkey only swallowed the package after it was made clear that in the absence of a brokered deal Obama would use the word ‘genocide,'” adds Hurriyet.
Meanwhile, the Economist report asserts that “it is understood that the agreement commits the sides to establishing diplomatic relations, opening the interstate border gradually and establishing a joint historical commission to consider the death of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire during 1915.”
If Obama decided to bargain with his pledge to garner a deal, which, at the end of the day, will benefit only US interests, then his campaign promise that mobilized an entire community was nothing more than a farce and he should be held accountable, especially after the generally rave reviews he received for this first 100 days.
Another problematic element is that Turkish and Western press reports indicate and assert that there are preconditions attached to this so-called “roadmap.” We have heard not so convincing assurances from Armenia’s leadership that they would not agree to preconditions, but unless the Hurriyet, the Economist and the New York Times are all making the same assumptions and not being “fed” this information then the Armenian government has a duty to share that information with the public.
The Armenian foreign ministry spokesperson continually assures the public that their decision-making is not based on press reports. However, the sad experience of the road to the “roadmap” has shown that the foreign press reports have thus far been on the mark. It falls on the foreign ministry and the Armenian leadership to prove otherwise, before it’s too late.