PSYCHOLOGICAL THRESHOLD BETWEEN TURKEY AND ARMENIA: FAIR MEMORY
by Emrah Usta

Today's Zaman
http://www.todayszaman.com/news-288335-psychological-threshold-between-turkey-and-armenia-fair-memory-by-emrah-usta*.html
Aug 1 2012
Turkey

The progress made in Turkish-Armenian relations by the adoption of
the protocols in 2010 proved to be unsustainable.

Bilateral relations stalled following the protocols. The three parties
in the Armenian parliament that make up the majority coalition decided
not to consider the protocols in parliament as long as Turkey insisted
on preconditions for their approval. In consideration of this, the
Turkish Parliament also remained indifferent to the process. The
suspension of the process due to mutual distrust and indifference
may leave the problem unresolved between the parties.

Individual efforts and the ideological obsessions that took hold
of the people further provoked the painful events through political
fanaticism. These aggressive emotions take the nations hostage and
foster different prejudices and perspectives. It is sad that all
these culminate in political fanaticism and the backing of state
institutions. The decisions of some parliaments to recognize the
1915 incidents as the alleged Armenian genocide are the main source
of controversy.

Genocide is a crime against humanity. However, this crime should be
substantiated by legal and historical evidence rather than political
allegations. Armenia is preparing to commemorate the 100th anniversary
of these incidents, while the Turkish side holds lobbying activities
before April 24 every year in the US, France and Germany. Whether
these efforts are part of daily politics or seek to address the
problem from a broader perspective is a popular question that needs
to be properly answered.

That said, as noted by the Agos newspaper, there is one man who is
seeking a way out. Professor Ahmet Davutoglu, the Turkish foreign
minister, has so far stated the most progressive and brave position
in the history of Turkish foreign policy. His statements imply
significant changes in Turkey's approach towards Armenia and the 1915
incidents. The Turkish foreign minister proposes a new approach that
respects the pain of the Armenians, does not deny the past, views this
fragile issue between the two nations as a common source of anguish
and offers an embracive policy that does not exclude the diaspora. By
this approach, Davutoglu tries to reverse the hostility. This new
style basically stems from the conviction that the current aggressive
policy of denial will not work out before 2015 and will put bilateral
relations into greater jeopardy.

A new approach from Davutoglu

Omer Ta┼~_p─▒nar from the Brookings Institution referred to Davutoglu's
statements in his column. Ta┼~_p─▒nar, referring to the phrase "just
memory" coined by the Turkish minister, underlined that there is now
a foreign minister who does not say that nothing happened in the past,
but at the same time does not define the incidents as genocide.

Ta┼~_p─▒nar also recalled that the Turkish minister is relying on a new
discourse. Obviously, the definition of just memory was crystallized
by Davutoglu's remarks: "We are not like the Germans. There is no
idea of ethnic cleansing or ghettos in our history. There were a
great number of Muslim casualties in the Balkans, the Caucasus. Some
terrible things happened in Anatolia out of paranoia that the Muslims
would be expelled from these lands as well. However, this was not a
reflex to annihilate an entire nation. If you compare this psychology
to the mindset of the Nazis and present us as a murdering nation,
this is not true. There was no unilateral declaration of crime."

These statements suggest that Turkey is not in a state of crisis
with the West with respect to the Armenian issue. The timing of this
message is of course part of the strategic planning held by Davutoglu.

With these statements, Davutoglu delivered two crucial messages to
Europe and Armenia by raising discussions on the sensitive issues
suggesting that this issue could be resolved in a timely manner
without considering the pressure from the EU and the US.

The timing for just memory is good, but what is in it and what does
it entail? These are vital questions. The basis of the just memory is
the pursuit of balance between the powers. True, there was a tragedy
in the Anatolian lands in 1915, but it was not only the Anatolian
Armenians who suffered but also all other Anatolian nations (Turks,
Greeks, Kurds and others). That is what this nation says.

Davutoglu, who said that what happened was a common source of anguish
and that it is for this reason that this issue cannot be resolved by
blaming one side, underlines that the problem is unsolvable. Even
though this approach seems rational from the Turkish perspective,
it would obviously not mean anything unless the Turkish side offers a
formal apology. This notion suggests that there is no crisis between
the West and Turkey on this matter; the notion may also serve as
a starting point to get through a psychological threshold with the
Armenians.

Leaving the Armenians out of the discussion with respect to the
communal clashes between the different groups while the Anatolian
people were subjected to extreme violence in Sarajevo, Tripoli, Yemen
and Jerusalem is not proper. In other words, it will take some time
to convince the Armenians that we should have reciprocal empathy. The
attainment of peace between the two countries could be an outcome of a
new approach where neither side would feel victorious. Like Hrant Dink
said, "The Turks are the doctors of the Armenians and the Armenians
are the doctors of the Turks." This could serve as the basis of this
new approach.

*Emrah Usta is an ─░stanbul-based political analyst and op-ed writer.

He can be followed on Twitter: @Emr_Usta