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A Turning Point: Armenian Officials Take The Bold Steps

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  • A Turning Point: Armenian Officials Take The Bold Steps

    By Dikran Abrahamian
    13 November 2008

    Turkey appeared to have the upper hand following the Georgian crisis
    and it took advantage of Russia's interests in the Caucasus. It pressed
    Armenia to make concessions both with respect to establishing a joint
    commission of historians and relinquishing the lands surrounding
    Karabakh as a security zone. In return Turkey promised to open the
    borders with Armenia. After much speculation of what Armenia would
    or would not agree to, highest officials seem to have taken the
    bold step of explicitly announcing what are negotiable and what
    are not. Armenia's president Serzh Sargsyan and his Minister of
    Foreign Affairs Eduard Nalbandian have assured the Armenian people
    the commission will not be established. In the previous update of the respective announcements were posted at the end of
    the items: A Letter to a Friend - Why the Silence and Inactivity? and
    Nalbandian: "Genocide" resolutions Not a Remedy.

    Not too long ago, barely a week, it appeared that the Armenian
    authorities were on the verge of being forced to drastically
    soften their stand towards Turkey, compared to previous Armenian
    administrations. However, following the election of the new president
    of the USA there seems to be a new lifeline. It's hard not to
    speculate=2 0 that Barack Obama's election has shifted the balance
    in favor of Armenia. It's no longer possible to make the argument
    that opening the borders is contingent on establishing a commission
    of historians, as the new president's perception of the Genocide is
    not a political opinion but a historical fact. Turkey knows this all
    too well. Whether the new administration recognizes the Genocide or
    not is an independent matter that forces within the congress will
    decide down the road.

    Another factor that may have played a role in this "conversion"
    is the critical appraisal of previous ambiguous announcements made
    by the same officials. People in Armenia and the Diaspora made it
    clear that the proposed commission was not acceptable - to put it
    mildly. Furthermore, giving in to Turkey's insistence on ceding land
    before opening the borders was akin to capitulation.

    Turkey may retaliate by making the usual threats that are well known.

    Israel may make its case of why Turkey is a crucial ally, and the
    Jewish lobby will try to influence the foreign policy of USA. There
    is no doubt about these matters. What's important, however, at this
    juncture, the dynamics has changed and Armenia should maintain its most
    recent course, and make use of all resources available to drive home
    its arguments in all international venues available at its disposal.

    Whether Karabakh's legal right to be a participant in the Minsk
    negotiations remains moot. Similarly, which international principle
    will be honored in future negotiations is not clear. Is it the
    territorial integrity of Azerbaijan or the right to self-determination
    of Karabakh that will predominate? The former is more likely, based
    on remarks made by the co-chairs of the Minsk group. What level of
    self-determination will then Karabakh get? In any event Armenia should
    not rush to a resolution until the new administration in USA is ushered
    in. Meanwhile time is running short for Turkey to impose its will at
    whim. Even if individual players in the future administration may not
    be so sympathetic to the cause of Karabakh or Armenia, all indications
    are that the future commander-in-chief will not be totally insensitive.

    Between now and the inauguration of the new president of USA, and
    possibly through April 2009, Armenia and its only dedicated ally
    - the Diaspora - have a window of opportunity that should not be
    lost. Without being forgetful and neglectful of the socio-economic
    ills in Armenia, all organizations and parties should re-evaluate
    the present circumstances, draw the pertinent conclusions and
    support the authorities of Armenia with respect to Turkey and its
    machinations. Regretfully, the authorities in Armenia should be kept
    on a short leash so that they don't flip-flop and change course again.