Airmail: Presidential Pen Pals

February 11, 2010 at 9:52 pm (Armenian-Turkish relations) (, , , , , )

Flying from Armenia to the United Kingdom on February 9th, Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan penned the following for his counterpart, Turkish President Abdullah Gul:

Your Excellency,

I’m extending my greetings to You and the people of neighborly Turkey.

Our initiative of normalizing the Armenia-Turkey relations is in the spotlight of attention of the international community. This is truly a historic one, and the whole world realizes it. The efforts of the countries involved in the region are invaluable in the process of improvement of bilateral relations. I’m confident that it would be impossible to register progress without their mediation. At the same time I do believe that no matter how much the friendly states are interested in the positive outcome of the process, they cannot do what our peoples are able to do.

Mr. President,

I think you’ll agree that the authorities are to play a key role in breaking the stereotypes between our peoples and establishing an atmosphere of mutual trust. Only with trust in our work, resoluteness and adherence to our principles can we achieve results. Otherwise, when the words and deeds contradict each other, it brings about mistrust, thus opening a broad filed of action for those who oppose the process. We have to realize that in this case time does not contribute to the process.

If up to this moment we have managed to bring the bilateral contacts to a level, from where the future of normal relations between our countries becomes more visible and tangible, today it’s high time to demonstrate willingness to make a step forwards in order to leave and stable and secure region to the coming generations.

Accept, please, Your Excellency, the assurance of my respect.


On February 11th, Gul wrote back:

Your Excellency, Dear Friend,

I would like to thank you for the kind message that you have sent on the occasion of your flight over the Turkish territory. Please accept my reciprocal greetings to you and the people of neighboring Armenia.

I welcome the thoughts conveyed to us in your message. I do share the view that our bilateral efforts aimed at the normalization of Turkish-Armenian relations attracted due attention world-wide by creating a new hope for peace in our conflict-ridden geography. Overcoming the long-established prejudices and nurturing mutual understanding and trust among our two neighboring peoples were indeed our main objectives when endorsing the process of normalization between our countries. You should have no doubt that our determination to take these objectives forward is intact, provided that this resolve and commitment remains reciprocal.

I also agree with you that responsible governance necessitates both standing behind words and supporting words with deeds. Hence, we will continue to work for taking our normalization process forward based upon the understanding reached between our two countries. We have to be aware that concluding this historic process will require honoring our commitments in their entirety as well as displaying adequate political courage and vision.

A future characterized by sustainable peace, security, prosperity and cooperation for all the people living in our region is our common goal and I will remain personally engaged in this process hoping to see it reach a satisfactory conclusion for both of our countries.

Please accept, Your Excellency, the assurances of my highest consideration.

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Charlie Rose Drama Alert

December 10, 2009 at 10:36 pm (Armenian-Turkish relations, media) (, , , , , , , , , , )

Barely had my disappointment faded after the Armenia-lite Erdoğan talk when Charlie Rose stirred up some dark, rich diplomatic drama on December 8th – from an armchair, no less. 

Charlie Rose

The spicy soujuk of the interview is this bit:

CHARLIE ROSE:  …There is now an agreement between Turkey and Armenia.     What is necessary in order to — what more evidence does history need with respect to the genocide? 

RECEP TAYYIP ERDOGAN:  Let me first of all say that you say of
genocide, speak of genocide.  I would be sorry to hear you say that.  I can
say very clearly that we do not accept genocide.  This is completely a lie. 

I invite people to prove it.  I wrote a letter in 2005, and I said
that this is not up to politicians.  It is up to historians to look into
this.  We have opened our archives.  We have all the documents there.  And
in our archives more than one million documents were already looked at. 
Today it’s even more than that.  And we have opened the archives of the
military.

And I asked the Armenian side to open their archives and let third
countries have documents.  We made a call for that too so that people could
look into all of these documents and we could all decide and see what’s
going on.

But it’s — this is not about lobbying and going to politicians and
asking them to take certain decisions.  This is not really the way to go. 
Something like this is really not possible, and there is no truth to it. 

CHARLIE ROSE:  Did President Obama bring it up with you?  Has he
discussed it with you? 

RECEP TAYYIP ERDOGAN:  I have spoken with him, yes.  Of course, this
most recent normalization process between Turkey and Armenia was important. 
This was the context in which we discussed these issues.

And let me say to the normalization process.  It was Turkey that
initiated the normalization process.  It was Turkey that took upon itself
the risk. 

We believe in ourselves.  What we would like to see is for this
normalization process to go forward.  And in that it’s important that we go
into that and the Karavak (sic) issue between Azerbaijan and Armenia be resolved. 
There is an occupation.  We have to solve that problem.

There are three countries involved — United States, the Russian
Federation, and France.  The Minsk (ph) group, why hasn’t it solved the
problem in the last 20 years?  The problem has to be solved.

And once that problem is solved then that region will be a region of
peace.  Why?  Because once the problem between Azerbaijan and Armenia is
solved, that hatred is going to dissipate.  There is the decision of the
United Nations Security Council which will be implemented.  And the
problems between Turkey and Armenia will definitely be resolved.  I believe
in it. 

But at the moment, you have the U.S. Congress here, and the U.S.
Congress doesn’t have direct relations with our region.  We are there in
that region.  We have direct relations.  We have direct issues.  And it’s
the Turkish parliament who has to make a decision on this agreement between
Turkey and Armenia.  They have to approve it. 

And of course, the Turkish parliament too is very sensitive about this
issue.  And if the positive developments that we would like to see do not
come about, then I do not believe that our parliament will have a positive
result as a result of its deliberations.  We will have a secret ballot, but
I don’t believe that without any other positive developments there will be
a positive outcome.  (Entire transcript here.)

BAM – Turkey inserts NK as an official precondition – in English – on prime time TV.  I didn’t know that Sargsyan watched Charlie, but he surely caught wind of Erdoğan’s flaunting their agreement, and issued the following statement on Thursday, December 10th:

Serzh Sargsyan

I am stating again that the Republic of Armenia is prepared to properly honor its international commitments.  Namely, to ratify the Turkish-Armenian protocols.  But you will recall that I have also stated before that if Turkey drags out the ratification of the protocols, then Armenia will immediately make use of possibilities stemming from international law

And so I am declaring now that I have instructed relevant state bodies to prepare amendments to those of our laws that pertain to the signing, ratification and abrogation of international agreements.

Turkey’s objective is to link Turkish-Armenian relations with the Nagorno-Karabakh problem.  I must once again repeat that those attempts are a priori doomed to failure.

Obviously, the deadline for ratifying these protocols is approaching.  While there is some leeway (the protocols need to be ratified in a “timely manner”) the window of opportunity to normalize that has eluded Turkey and Armenia for nearly twenty years may slowly be closing.

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All-Armenia Tour ’09!!!

October 6, 2009 at 12:14 am (Armenian-Turkish relations, Diaspora-homeland relations, media, nationalism) (, , , , , , , , , )

I like the idea of an pan-Armenia tour. I would like to do one someday – hit up Manchester, Buenos Aires, Cairo…

Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan is wrapping up his week-long all-Armenia tour in Rostov-on-Don/Rostov-na-Donu after stops in Paris, New York, Los Angeles, and Beirut. His purpose: to rep the protocols to the protocol-bashers, namely, diasporans around the world.

You might have heard about his reception. In Paris, protesters scuffled with the police. In NYC, young activists fought to have their voices heard. In Los Angeles, thousands picketed Sargsyan, shouting votch! (no!) outside of the Beverly Hills Hotel.

dont betray UHaul parked across from the Armenian consulate in Los Angeles.  Credit: StopTheProtocols.com

"don't betray" UHaul parked across from the Armenian consulate in Los Angeles. Credit: StopTheProtocols.com

The protests were not limited to Sargsyan’s tour, either – protests have sprung up in Montreal, Toronto, and Argentina. Glendale and Los Angeles – if we can separate the two – have been particularly active both before and after Sargsyan’s visit.

Like good activists, diasporan organizers have done an excellent job gathering protesters and publicizing their events. Conflicts between picketers and riot police – caught on camera and video – nicely convey the passion these diasporans feel about the protocols. To the media, it sure looks like the diaspora is unified in their opposition Indeed – as discussed previously – the diasporan political parties are mostly united – and more groups join in every day – the Zoryan Institute, AGBU, various schools and churches. The combination of self-promotion paired with the sudden burst of diasporan activism ensures that the protests will make the news.

This worries me. While I do no oppose the protocols, I do not fully support them either. You are not going to find me on a street corner with a witty poster because I am not a blind nationalist – of the Republic or of the nation. I see benefits and dangers in the protocols, but I am willing to let them play out. They will not fix everything – and they will not ruin everything. However, I am not inspired by Armenian youths in California forming a human chain to prevent Sargsyan from visiting their local genocide memorial. In fact, I see some really detrimental behavior shaping up in the form of these protests:

1. Like with section 907 of the Freedom of Support Act – the diaspora is once again actively interfering with Armenia’s foreign policy. The opposition claims that Armenia is not on equal negotiating grounds with Turkey – but have they considered their role in tipping the power scales against Armenia?

2. Diasporan media outlets are owned by diasporan political parties and those parties are part of the anti-protocol coalition. They promote and report on the opposition – and that becomes the de facto truth. Like I said, I am not out there repping my ambivalence towards the protocols – and that wouldn’t be nearly as sexy as straight-up opposition anyways. When there is only one voice speaking for the diaspora – that will become the only voice.

NYC protest  Credit: Asbarez

NYC protest Credit: Asbarez

3. Diasporan youth are being indoctrinated into an Armenian identity that is primarily based on the Armenian cause. This is not new. However, the urgency of the situation is new. Youths tend to take these revolutionary things pretty seriously, and hatred will form. Hatred without proper means of reconciliation gets desperate, and that leads to extremism.

My inner pessimist is already anticipating the day when the protocols will fail and a roar of victory will rise up from the diaspora: “we did it! now we can get back to advocating for Turkey’s admission of the genocide.” I love the activism, I love the passion – I just think it is misguided. If the diaspora’s goal is to achieve recognition for the genocide from Turkey (I will leave NK out of this for now) the diaspora needs to start becoming the change they want to see. It isn’t going to happen by force, guilt, or political pressure – it will happen through knowledge and understanding.

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