BY HARUT SASSOUNIAN
Faced with deadlock in ratifying the Armenia-Turkey Protocols, the major powers are desperately looking for a face-saving way out of the current dilemma. France, Russia and the United States have invested far too much time and effort to walk away from the negotiated and signed, but not ratified, “deal of the century.”
At the time of writing this column, the President of Armenia and the Prime Minister of Turkey had been summoned to Washington by Pres. Obama for a last ditch effort to rescue the Protocols or at a minimum create an illusion of progress in the reconciliation process. The slightest gesture or even the promise of an improvement in Armenia-Turkey relations or the Artsakh (Karabagh) conflict would give Pres. Obama the required fig leaf to cover up his broken promise on the Armenian Genocide.
It will soon be clear if White House pressure on Armenia and Turkey would result in any positive movement, such as limited opening of the Armenia-Turkey border, before ratifying the Protocols. Azerbaijan’s President was deliberately left out of the Washington Summit in order to prevent him from undermining U.S. mediating efforts. In the event of Turkish recalcitrance, Armenia’s President would have no choice but to withdraw his country’s signature from the Protocols, blaming Turkey for putting preconditions and demanding that Artsakh be handed to Azerbaijan.
In an attempt to break the deadlock, Thomas de Waal, Senior Associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, issued a “Policy Brief” on April 9, just before the start of the Washington Summit. The report, “Armenia and Turkey: Bridging the Gap,” suggests five “goodwill gestures” that Turkey needs to make in order to keep reconciliation with Armenia alive.
— An opening of the Armenia-Turkey border for noncommercial travelers;
— A limited opening of a zone next to the Armenia-Turkey border that contains the medieval Armenian city of Ani, now just inside Turkish territory. This would allow Armenian tourists to visit the ancient site.
— A Turkish initiative to fully open and digitize the Ottoman archives containing the official Ottoman records of the events of 1915 to 1921.
— A Turkish government initiative to invite diaspora Armenians to visit the ancient Armenian heritage sites of Anatolia.
— The opening of a Turkish Airlines route between Istanbul and Yerevan.
In return, de Waal suggests that Armenia pledge “to end the isolation of Nakhichevan once the Turkish-Armenian border opens.”
After offering the aforementioned simplistic ideas, de Waal turns to the Armenian Genocide recognition issue and tries to come up with a long-term solution to the perennial Armenian-American lobbying efforts which “hobble” the United States. He calls the confrontation in Congress on this issue between Armenians and Turks, “grubby political bargaining.”
According to de Waal, Pres. Obama’s broken promise on the Armenian Genocide and his use of “Meds Yeghern” (Great Calamity) as a substitute for Genocide is “a dignified formula.”
Here is what de Waal suggests:
“In order to move away from this annual agony, it makes sense to reframe the Armenian-Turkish issue within a longer perspective. The coming centenary of the Armenian holocaust in five years’ time in 2015 and the growing debate within Turkey on the ‘Armenian question’ gives impetus to this approach. In 2015 — whether the Turks like it or not — the world will mark the anniversary of the Armenian tragedy. The president could deliver a message on April 24, 2010, in which he notes that the centenary commemorations are now five years away and pledges that, if still in office, he will join in those events (perhaps even in Yerevan), but in which he also promises the Turks a little peace until then by affirming his faith in the internal debate in Turkey. Obama could say, ‘We hope to mark this tragic date with our Turkish friends, and not without them,’ and aspire to be a catalyst for Armenian–Turkish reconciliation.”
What de Waal is suggesting is simply a ploy to bury the Armenian Genocide issue for another 5 years, while creating a breathing space for the ratification of the defunct Protocols.
Before Pres. Obama could be trusted to keep any new promises, he needs to uphold the ones that he has already made and broken. Besides, what guarantees do we have that the President will be re-elected for a second term, and even if he is, that he will keep his pledge!