Today's Zaman, Turkey
dec 29 2013

Has Armenia set preconditions for normalization?

by Mehmet Fatih Öztarsu*
29 December 2013 /

Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu's visit to Yerevan, where he
participated in a meeting of the Organization of the Black Sea
Economic Cooperation (BSEC) on Dec. 12, provided some insights into
the current state of Turkish-Armenian relations.

The negative statements and publications from both political and
civilian sources in Armenia during the visit showed Armenia's
persistent suspicion and distrust of Turkey. The Armenian authorities,
who announced two days before the visit that a meeting between
Davutoğlu and President Serzh Sarksyan would not be possible, added
that a meeting with Foreign Minister Eduard Nalbandyan might occur. In
addition, as reported in the Armenian media, Nalbandyan was not
pleased about the meeting and did not adopt a welcoming approach
before Davutoğlu's visit to Yerevan.

The ministers' meeting was covered differently by media outlets in
Turkey and Armenia. Unlike Turkish reports, which suggested that this
was a constructive meeting, the Armenian media took a negative view
and argued that Turkey was just making a show of diplomacy.

A new political approach from the Armenians appears to have influenced
the negative stance towards Turkey in this period. After Davutoğlu's
remark, "We do not endorse deportation and find it inhuman," it is
obvious that the reason for the Armenians' indifference and coldness
is that they have already suspended the normalization process with

The most important aspect of the Yerevan visit, which became a source
of disappointment for Ankara despite its potential as a new start in
relations with Armenia, is that the Armenian authorities have
seriously criticized Turkey for the first time since President
Abdullah Gül's visit to Armenia during a World Cup pre-qualifier match
that pitted Turkey against Armenia in October, 2009. Ankara, which
focuses on the opening of the Armenian border and the improvement of
bilateral relations, was urged to recognize the so-called Armenian
genocide and open the border. In other words, Armenia cites Turkish
recognition of the alleged genocide as a precondition for the
normalization of relations. Armenian Deputy Foreign Minister Shavarsh
Kocharyan stressed that Davutoğlu should visit the genocide memorial
and recognize the so-called genocide in order to normalize the
relations. As part of this new discourse, Yerevan is calling on Ankara
to recognize the alleged genocide committed by the Ottoman state
against Armenians in Turkey. The Armenian authorities argue that once
this has been admitted, Turkey will have proven that it is a state
with humanitarian values, while they ask it to stay away from the
Nagorno-Karabakh issue and avoid an aggressive stance on that matter.

Similar views were expressed in both the opposition and the ruling
party in Armenia, while members of the Armenian diaspora strongly
criticized Turkey. The diaspora, arguing that Turkey would force
Yerevan to enter a process of normalization, said that Turkey should
recognize the Armenian genocide. But the diaspora's negative attitude
worsened the overall situation between Turkey and Armenia. Turkey's
greatest mistake in this matter is the impression that it has linked
normalization and the 2015 anniversary of the alleged genocide.
Describing Armenia as a potential ally and referring to the
Ottoman-era deportations of Armenians as a failing of the past
administration will not lead to positive results, given that Armenia
seems to have begun an all-out war on normalization. There are now
systematic and organized attempts from the Armenian side to
demonstrate that the Turkish Republic was responsible for these
events. Therefore, the Armenians aim to ensure that Turkey cannot
distance itself from the events of 1915. It is also notable that,
compared to Turkey, the Armenians have a greater ability to influence
and convince the world. Therefore, Turkey, which has not been heard on
a number of issues including the Treaties of Kars and Moscow,
Operation Nemesis, the Armenian Secret Army for the Liberation of
Armenia's (ASALA) terrorism and the massacres in Nagorno-Karabakh,
cannot counter Armenia's organized attempts.

It is clear that the Armenian side is in a better position than Turkey
in this dispute. It is unfortunate that Turkey fails to understand
Armenia or the diaspora while expressing itself to the international
community. However, despite these facts, Turkey is still attempting to
create new political initiatives due to its overconfidence. For
instance, recent foreign studies related to the issue of Islamized
Armenians have led to a very different interpretation of the Armenian
issue. The problem became more intricate, and new issues emerged as a
result. But Turkey has kept its focus on a single dimension of the
issue, as through this it hopes to escape the issue of deportations.
However, this is unlikely to generate the result it desires. In this
new era, Turkey will have to face a number of new conditions for
normalization with the Armenians in association with the deportations.

*Mehmet Fatih Öztarsu is an analyst with Strategic Outlook.

From: A. Papazian