Hurriyet Daily News
March 31 2010

There is an urban legend existing for some time.

According to that, Armenia is so poor that it wants the borders to
Turkey to open as soon as possible. This way either they can leave
for Turkey easily or improve their quality of life with an increase
in trade.

This legend may have been true to some extent in the 1990s.

I went to Yerevan a few times in the 90s and I indeed encountered
a very poor Armenia. The only place to stay was the Yerevan Hotel
where mice ran in the corridor. The streets and buildings were in a
bad shape and the quality of life really bad.

With independence in 1992 it slowly started to change and today the
improvement in Yerevan has really stunned me.

In place of the ruinous Yerevan Hotel there is now a Marriott and
the number of hotels in the city has increased to 10.

Streets have been repaved. Cobblestone pavement or trolley rails
cutting into tires have been replaced with streets looking new
and clean.

Shopping alleys with their glamorous lights and foreign brands reflect
people's purchasing power. The abundance of restaurants, casinos and
nightclubs has stunned me. Previously the number of movie theaters
not exceeding two or three in this capitol of 1.5 million now has a
very colorful nightlife.

Don't get me wrong.

Based on what I wrote in the beginning please don't think that Armenia
has become rich and people are living a gorgeous life now. What I
am trying to say is that there is no poverty anymore. To describe
Armenia's general situation it would be more correct to say "they
are living a moderate lifestyle."

I wanted to draw your attention to what I hear quite often here. In
case the borders are kept closed, Armenians will continue living the
way they used to live for the past 17 years and they are not willing
to do anything to provide for the opening of the borders.

In return if the borders are opened Armenia will get rid of an embargo
and life will become easier. The country will not become rich over
night, but life will be easier in many ways. If there won't be any
consent and borders remain closed, then Armenia still won't die of
poverty. Let's not forget that the opening of borders and lifting of
an embargo will support the Armenians morally in negotiations with
Azerbaijan. Turkey would seem to support Armenia, even if not as much
as Azerbaijan, which is not something to be ignored.

That is why the dispute over borders creates excitement as well as an
"It's not the end of the world" attitude.

Opening borders will also benefit Turkey

To tell the truth, no one knows how much the opening of borders
will contribute to Armenia's economy. Some research shows that the
contribution will be moderate to high level, based on investments
and trade traffic. But we should not forget that not only Armenia
will benefit from this contingency, but also Turkey.

- Armenia, through Turkey, will be able to open up to Middle Eastern
and European markets. It will be able to increase the export of goods
and import goods cheaper compared to present conditions.

- With the opening of borders tourism from Europe and the Armenian
community in Turkey will increase.

- Armenia will be able to sell electricity to Turkey.

- It will also be able to use Turkey's Black Sea and Mediterranean
ports to spread trade.

- Armenia will become a country through which energy lines will run.

- Turkey will also encounter important benefits from the opening
of the borders. Regions like Van and Kars will revive in trade and
tourism. Goods of Turkish origin will be cheaper in the Armenian
market due to short cuts in transportation currently transportation
is via Iran and Georgia which makes import quite expensive.

- More importantly Turkey will reach Middle Eastern markets easier.

Currently transportation takes too long.

Nobody imagines a life without genocide or the aftermath

The Armenians are so focused on and linked their hopes to Turkey
accepting the genocide so much so that they turned it into their
lifestyle and when one day Turkey finally accepts it you'd think the
world stopped spinning.

When talking to students I asked: "What would you do if Turkey accepted
genocide? Would they then ask for territory or compensation?"

They were stunned and didn't know how to respond.

Genocide has become part of their life so much so that they can't
think of a world in which genocide is an issue any more.

When asking the same question to academics and formal authorities I
realized that the aftermath of genocide has never been considered.

It's interesting but a belief exists in the lines of "Other countries
may accept, but it's hard to make the Turks accept it." When digging
deeper you'll find two factors. One is that behind these genocide
allegations there is no territorial claim but beneficiaries who
lost their homes and still hold on to the title deed could sue for
compensation. However this issue also seems to far-fetched. Another
factor is that even if the protocols were approved in parliament the
realization of the historians' commission in respect to genocide
issues would encounter such deep resistance that it would make it
almost impossible.

It's not going to be easy.

It seems very difficult for the Armenian society to ignore a possible
suspicion brought about by historians who will pick a subject to
pieces which the Armenians are sure the world has already accepted. n=armenians-are-not-as-poor-as-to-depend-on-us-201 0-03-31