Reactions in the Turkish Press

The Armenian opening
By Yusuf Kanli, Hurriyet, September 15, 2009

Obviously, there are objectionable and perhaps deplorable elements in the Turkish-Armenian protocols but a careful reconsideration might vividly demonstrate that they are products of a successful and diligent diplomacy that caters to most of Turkey’s outstanding interests. Most important of all, though tacit, with these protocols Armenia has delivered Ankara two crucial concessions.

What are they?

The Armenian opening
By Yusuf Kanli, Hurriyet, September 15, 2009

Obviously, there are objectionable and perhaps deplorable elements in the Turkish-Armenian protocols but a careful reconsideration might vividly demonstrate that they are products of a successful and diligent diplomacy that caters to most of Turkey’s outstanding interests. Most important of all, though tacit, with these protocols Armenia has delivered Ankara two crucial concessions.

What are they?

First of all Armenia has accepted for the first time ever the creation of a history commission that might feature historians from interested third parties in examining the genocide claims. That is, without saying so the Serge Sarkisian administration of Armenian has conceded from the “Genocide is a fact, there is no need to verify it through scientific research or to discuss it” position. Secondly, for the first time ever in the post-Soviet era, Armenia has agreed to recognize the joint border with Turkey as was defined in the Kars treaty, though there is no reference in the protocols to the Kars treaty. Such recognition by Armenia is no less than declaring it has no territorial claims from Turkey or it has turned a cold shoulder to diaspora’s land claims from Turkey.

Because of those concessions Sarkisian is now having a tough ride with the Armenian opposition, while many Turkish diplomats who devoted a life to battle Armenian claims against Turkey are expressing with satisfaction appreciation for the Turkish “diplomatic victory” in Armenia relations.

Yet, the opposition parties are fuming over the protocols and delivering tough statements as if the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, government has betrayed Turkey’s national interests.

All the issues on the table in Turkish-Armenian negotiations, excluding one, are problems between the two countries. Recognition of the Kars treaty or the joint border defined by that treaty and Armenia declaring it has no territorial claims from Turkey, resolution of the genocide claims through studies of a joint historical commission, normalization of relations including establishment of diplomatic relations and opening of the border gates are the most prominent issues the Swiss-mediated silent diplomacy between Turkey and Armenia has been aiming to achieve. Of these topics, only normalization of relations and opening of the border gates heading was not a purely bilateral subject as suspension of the plans to open a Turkish embassy in Yerevan and closure of the border were decided by Ankara as a reaction to the invasion and subsequent occupation of Nagorno-Karabakh, a predominantly Armenian dominated enclave in Azerbaijan, and several Azerbaijani-population regions around the mountainous enclave.

Indeed, without abandoning Azerbaijan and landing Turkish-Azerbaijani relations in an unprecedented crisis and risking his own political future very seriously no Turkish leader can open the border without a resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh occupation or at least declaration of a withdrawal timetable by Armenia. Can Armenia undertake such a move now? What if, as was suggested earlier, Armenia withdraws from Nagorno-Karabakh and the Azeri regions around and Russian peacekeepers are deployed in the mountainous region? Even if with Azerbaijani demands Turkish troops join Russians as peacekeepers in the disputed territory, such a development might still be acceptable for Yerevan as an “interim formula.” After all, were not Russian military elements together with Armenian troops in the occupation of the region?

Such a development may as well help Erdoğan escape “treason” accusation in the 2010 or 2011 early polls while convert him into a “national hero” in Azerbaijan as he would have secured “liberation” of occupied Azerbaijani land.

The outcome would serve to Turkish-Russian relations, as well as the U.S. interests in this geography. Furthermore, such a resolution would be a great contribution to Western energy security, and thus would be applauded by the EU, too.

Can Armenia declare a withdrawal timetable? That might make Erdoğan a hero, otherwise, he will find himself in some very serious reputation problems in domestic politics. Would he care? So far he proved that he has no such worries.

  1. Shifting Rules are Creating Zero-Sum Game

    Turkey and Armenia: Soccer Diplomacy Shifting Rules are Creating a Zero-Sum Game

    By Amberin Zaman, Ankara, Today’s Zaman, 31 August 2009

    Amberin Zaman is the Turkey correspondent for The Economist and writes a weekly column for the Turkish daily Taraf. The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the German Marshall Fund of the United States (GMF). This article was written prior to the announcement of the Protocols.

    On September 6 of last year, Abdullah Gül, Turkey’s president, became the first-ever Turkish leader to set foot in Armenia. The occasion was a World Cup pre-qualifier match pitting Turkey against Armenia.

    Many viewed Gül’s decision to accept his Armenian counterpart Serzh Sargysan’s invitation auguring the establishment of formal ties between the traditionally hostile neighbors and the re-opening of their long frozen border.

    Normalizing relations between Turkey and Armenia has been a pressing goal for successive American administrations. Friendship between the two countries would arm Washington against long-running attempts by the Armenian-American diaspora to push through a Congressional bill that would formally classify the mass slaughter in 1915 of Armenians under the Ottoman Empire as genocide. With anti-American sentiments in Turkey riding high, adoption of such legislation would be certain to trigger another crisis in Turkish-American ties at a time when Turkish support is crucial to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

    Additionally, peace between Turkey and Armenia would draw the landlocked former Soviet Republic out of Russia’s orbit and help cement Western influence—and stability—in the southern Caucasus.

    A Turkey that is engaged with Armenia would be in a stronger position to coax the latter into a settlement with Azerbaijan over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh enclave. Peace between Azerbaijan and Armenia would not only blunt Russian influence but Iran’s as well.

    Finally, there is a moral dimension. Extending the hand of friendship to Armenia would help mitigate if not erase decades of bitterness harbored by millions of Armenians across the globe.

    Over a year ago, these arguments propelled Turkish policymakers to abandon the position that peace with Armenia would only be possible if Armenia made peace with Azerbaijan. Aided by Swiss mediation and American encouragement, Turkish and Armenian diplomats held a series of secret talks aimed at establishing ties and re-opening the border.

    Peace at last?

    Gül’s September visit to Yerevan gave the process a big boost. Six months later, on April 22, the two countries announced that they had initiated a “roadmap” setting out the parameters for formalizing ties. The roadmap called for a set of joint commissions that would, among other things, examine the events of 1915, and foresaw the eventual re-opening of the border without preconditions. The timing of the announcement, however, raised suspicions in Yerevan, as the roadmap had been initiated well before April 22. Was it meant to prevent U.S. President Barack Obama from using the term “genocide” in his April 24th statement, marking the anniversary of the killings? Obama’s use of the phrase “Medz Yeghern,” which means “Great Catastrophe” in Armenian, provoked deep anger among American-Armenians who recalled his campaign pledge to recognize the genocide. Turkey wasn’t thrilled by the reference, but at least the G-word had been averted. The expectation in Washington was that Turkey would now sign off with Armenia.

    Ankara shifts the goalposts

    Armenia’s suspicions may well have been right. Within days of announcing the roadmap, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Turkey’s prime minister, declared before the Azerbaijani Parliament that Turkish-Armenian peace would not be possible until Armenia withdrew from Nagorno-Karabakh and its surrounding region. His announcement hit like a cold shower in Yerevan, Washington, and Ankara alike. What had triggered it?

    Enter Azerbaijan

    There were several reasons for the policy change. First and foremost were the cries of treason from Azerbaijan. Despite the theoretically cozy ties between Ankara and Baku, the Azeris were apparently unaware of the precise wording of the roadmap. Azeri threats to turn to Russia and an unexpected gas deal signed between the two countries led to panic in Ankara. Turkey’s ambitions to become the main transit hub for natural gas from Central Asia and Azerbaijan hung in the balance. Erdoğan’s trip to Baku soothed Azeri nerves, but in the words of a senior Turkish diplomat “immense damage to our relations” had been wrought.

    This begs the question of how Ankara failed to foresee Baku’s reaction. The conventional wisdom was that Azerbaijan

    needs Turkey more than Turkey needs Azerbaijan. With the September presidential elections out of the way, it was widely assumed that Azerbaijan would relent. What no one accounted for was Moscow exploiting the opportunity to increase its leverage over Azerbaijan.

    But there was another aspect to Turkey’s behavior. Reconciliation with Armenia was primarily driven by the dovish Gül. Erdoğan was never fully on board. Nor was Ahmet Davutoğlu, who before becoming Turkey’s foreign minister in May, had served as Erdoğan’s chief foreign policy advisor. Davutoğlu has long maintained that peace with Armenia would not be sustainable unless Karabakh were resolved. Should the conflict resume, would Turkey be forced to reseal its border with Armenia? It’s a thin argument. Armenia won the war, so it is unlikely to reignite it.

    Sargysan’s gamble

    Meanwhile, Turkey keeps raising the bar. It insists that any deal with Armenia needs to be ratified by the parliament. This would be a first. When Turkey recognized and established diplomatic relations with Kosovo, for instance, the parliament was not involved. All of this has placed Sargysyan, Armenia’s president, in an increasingly untenable position at home, where there is already widespread anger at the government for going along with the creation of a joint historical commission. For many, this amounts to calling genocide into doubt. The ultra-nationalist Dashnak party, which pulled out of the government following the announcement of the road map, is now baying for blood. Their target is, Eduard Nalbandian, Armenia’s foreign minister.

    In a bid to stanch their anger, Sargysan declared that he would not attend a Turkey-Armenia football match scheduled for October 14 unless the border was re-opened or was close to be being re-opened. Amid fears that the rapprochement process will crumble, Swiss mediators have resumed efforts to get each side to agree on a path that would clear the way for formal ties and re-opening the border. Turkey’s reported refusal to cede to Armenia’s demands to reiterate that the deal is unconditional (i.e. not linked to progress on Karabakh) temporarily stalled the process. Armenia has now dropped this demand but wants something concrete from Turkey. Otherwise Sargysan will not come. At the time of publication of this analysis, there were widespread reports that compromise had been struck and that Turkey and Armenia would issue respective declarations underscoring their commitment to the implementation of the April 22nd agreement. The declaration, was expected among other things, to outline a time frame for political consultations that would precede the signing of that agreement. However, qualms from Armenia that Turkey would drag out the process are yet to be overcome.

    A Turkish hold out for concessions on Karabakh would be equally unrealistic. When former Armenian President Levon Ter Petrossian tried this in 1998, he was pushed out of power. Few policymakers in Ankara seem to understand Armenia’s internal dynamics, which are usually ignored by the Turkish press.


    The noises coming out of Ankara suggest that Turkey will not abandon its efforts to get the Armenians to move on Karabakh as a quid pro quo for normalization. Indeed, Turkey seems bent on rallying Washington to its position. The U.S. administration continues to insist that Turkish-Armenian normalization should proceed independently of Karabakh. In private, American officials warn that a Congressional resolution on the term “genocide” may not only be revived but approved this time. The trouble is that Erdoğan, who has final say on foreign policy, is steeped in efforts to solve Turkey’s biggest headache, its Kurdish problem. Many of the proposed measures are a hard sell. Erdoğan’s nationalist opponents are already accusing him of talking to terrorists. A deal with Armenia that sidelines Azerbaijan would give them further ammunition.

    So the question is whether a no show from Sargysan on October 14 will spell the end of Turkish-Armenian peace? Probably not. Realpolitik will once again prevail and diplomacy will intervene. But unless Ankara softens its stance, it may take a long time before Turkey and Armenia shake hands.

  2. Bloody Turk!

    By Orhan Kemal Cengiz, Today’s Zaman, 18 September 2009

    Orhan Kemal Cengiz is a lawyer, chairman of the Human Rights Agenda Association, jurist-writer, human rights defender, newspaper columnist, and founder member of Amnesty Turkey. On several occasions he has been threatened and intimidated. Such was the case when he worked on behalf of one of three men killed in an attack at a Christian publishing house in April 2007. He states that Turkey has come a long way since the time when naming schools and streets after Kenan Evren — the leader of the Sept. 12, 1980 coup d’état — and celebrating the military coup of May 27, 1960 like a festival were common. His latest article in Today’s Zaman is brought to the attention of readers.

    I am not a religious person. I am not Kurdish. I am not gay. I am not Christian. I am not Armenian. I am not Roma. But I have spent all my life defending these people’s rights.

    I am a human rights defender. When I describe myself, I say I am a human rights defender, a lawyer and a writer. It was during my first time in London in 1998 that I realized, no matter what I do, I was a “bloody Turk” for some people. Ironically, I was working for the Kurdish Human Right Project there, and we were taking cases to the European Court of Human Rights, as a result of which I felt deeply threatened by the deep state elements in my country. When I met with the Armenian community in London, I turned into a representative of Turkey. It was the first time my “Turkishness” took precedence over all my qualifications.

    Massacres of Armenians were orchestrated and organized by the Committee of Union and Progress (CUP) — which came to power through a military coup — while the Ottoman Empire was falling apart. After these massacres and as a result of the lack of confrontation with our past, the CUP and its gangs changed their format and turned into the “deep state” in Turkey. These deep state elements continued their massacres and manipulations and drenched Turkey with blood during the Republican era. We have these deep state elements, but we also have many people fighting against them with or without knowing the history. The Ergenekon trial, in this sense, is a turning point in this endeavor in Turkey. You can think of the Ergenekon gang as the armed wing of the CUP in today’s Turkey.

    The massacres of Armenians were carried out by a certain mindset, by a political movement. Unfortunately, this political movement also created the official Turkish history, one in which there is no place for Armenians. And the state is in complete denial of what happened in Turkey in the past. This denial unfortunately gives strong support to a racist approach toward Turkey and its people.

    I was in Toronto last year attending an extremely interesting course on genocide. For two weeks we went into all the details of different genocides that took place in various parts of the world. All lecturers gave exemplary presentations, and I felt I had really learned something. However, I also realized that there was a fundamental difference in the way in which the Armenian genocide is being handled. When we spoke about the Holocaust, we spoke of the Nazi regime; when we discussed the genocide in Cambodia, we talked about the Khmer regime; when it came to the Armenian genocide, though, we only heard the word “Turks.”

    Complete and blanket denial feeds complete and absolute labeling. This is a vicious circle. It is very unfortunate that some Armenians, while believing they are seeking justice, have turned into hopeless racists. They do not want to believe that there are many good people in this country. They do not want to remember that there were also Turks who lost their lives while trying to protect Armenians. They hold tightly on to this image of the “bloody Turk.” Every Turk, every individual living in Turkey, is just a murderer for them.

    The pathology of amnesia and the pathology of blind hatred are two sides of one coin. They both serve the same purpose: Both leave Turks and Armenians as deeply neurotic people.

    In the midst of all this madness, Hrant Dink was a safe haven of reason, wisdom and compassion. He had a deep understanding of Turkey and the trauma we have been suffering for so long. He was killed because he was the hope in the face of this madness. He could have been killed by an Armenian racist. But instead, he was killed by Turkish racists, of course, under the guidance of the deep state. Dink was a bloody Turk for Armenian racists and an Armenian traitor for racist Turks. He was a dangerous figure for all who wanted to continue this vicious circle of hatred. During his funeral, we chanted, “We all are Hrant Dink.” We all need to be Dink if we wish to contribute to reconciliation. I bow respectfully before his memory.



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