Hürriyet geeft Armeense genocide toe

Vandaag las ik met grote verbazing onderstaand stuk gepubliceerd in het Engels uit Hürriyet, een Turkse, en dat mag duidelijk zijn, kwaliteitskrant. Zonder het met zoveel woorden te zeggen geeft deze krant toe dat er een genocide heeft plaats gevonden op de Armeense inwoners van het Ottomaanse Rijk (zie roodgemarkeerde tekst onderaan). In Turkije is dit niet alleen moedig, het is tevens strafbaar. Dit is wellicht de verklaring voor het vage taalgebruik, maar een geoefend lezer begrijpt wat men bedoelt.

Een pluim voor Hürriyet! Auteur is een zekere Cengiz Aktar, aannemelijk een bekend journalist in Turkije gezien zijn wikipediapagina (in het Turks).


Failing to Change the Course on Armenia

Victorious in the July 2007 elections, the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, found on its desk in October the House Resolution on the Armenian Genocide at the United States House of Representatives.

At the time, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan gave the following possible consequences if the resolution was passed: “The U.S. will considerably damage bilateral ties with one of its key allies in the region. Positive developments with Armenia will become less likely.”

The U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee passed the resolution on Oct. 10, 2007 exactly like in March 4, 2010. Following the vote, Erdoğan said that they were diligently working on possible steps to be taken, saying, “These are not for talk, but for action,” after being asked about the fate of U.S. Air Force Base in İncirlik.

Despite this, the partnership between the two countries has not loosened up; on the contrary, especially after Barack Obama became president, the Turkey-U.S. partnership blossomed more.

As the rumors were that Erdoğan would cancel a trip to the U.S. scheduled for November 2007, the visit actually took place on Nov. 3. As for relations with Armenia, work on the Protocols, which were just launched then, continued and the blueprints were signed last fall.

Armenian Genocide bills, which have been approved since 1965 in parliaments around the world, have never caused such high tension between Turkey and the 20 countries that have ratified them than the feud existing today between Turkey and the U.S. and Turkey and Sweden.

The only serious tension, as far as I remember, happened when Turkey called back the Turkish Ambassador to Paris Hasan Esat Işık, after a monument dedicated to the genocide was inaugurated in Marseilles in 1974. In the near past, Turkey showed a similar reaction to Canada, but that didn’t last.

To the contrary, Erdoğan has visited these 20 countries several times with the exception of Armenia and the Republic of Cyprus. No alterations have happened in economic relations. France is even being invited back to military tenders after being snubbed for some time.

Tough but inefficient diplomacy

It’s obvious that the government is toughening its stance compared to previous years on foreign matters. Now we understand why Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu is likened to former U.S. State Secretary Henry Kissinger, a champion of muscle-flexing foreign policy.

Summoning back ambassadors from Stockholm and Washington one after the other for consultations; requiring inconceivable guarantees from the U.S. administration that the House Resolution won’t reach the floor; canceling and not postponing a two-party summit due to take place in Stockholm; recommending business circles cool their relations with these countries; threatening to deport clandestine workers from Armenia in retaliation for genocide bills – thus mimicking Idi Amin Dada of Uganda when he expelled Muslim businessman from India and Pakistan in 1972.

But all these are tough-looking, empty threats that detract from the credibility of Turkey’s foreign policy.

Because, in the end, Erdoğan will go to the U.S. accompanied by the Turkish ambassador and he will possibly discuss, among other things, the Armenian issue. Relations with our biggest ally in the European Union, Sweden, will go back to normal as well. The protocols signed with Armenia will be shelved at least until the end of the election period. But we should expect of Turkey engagement in gestures to rebuild confidence following Erdoğan’s trip to Washington.

Defining the legislative acts of foreign parliaments as “irrelevant,” “valueless,” “a comedy,” “ridiculous” and “a show of the diaspora” fluctuates between insult and threat.

The Turkish government took a critical initiative in the summer of 2007 as a way to go beyond the common refrain that was used for 90-something years regarding the Armenian Genocide.

Irrespective of its goals, this was a courageous and critical move. But, due to the government’s rigidities, the initiative has been aborted. Now, the government leader and its members are lashing out, going through tantrums over national honor and pride.

Instead, they should calm down and find ways to normalize relations with Armenia. In the meantime, officials could and should make an effort to consult sources other than official denial tales of what happened to Anatolian Armenians in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

For it is impossible for Turkey – and the AKP, for that matter – to continue talking about democratic change on the one hand and, on the other, confirm the horrifying deeds of early 20th century Ottoman governments.

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