Friday, 18 July 2008

Armenia-Turkey: a breakthrough? (Serj Sargsyan – 100 days in the office)

Although publicly Turkish officials tried to play down the significance of recent high level “secret contacts” between representatives of our countries, Turkish Daily News has learned from sources that they “mark an important stage for future relations.”

Undersecretary of the Foreign Ministry Ertuğrul Apakan and his deputy Ünal Çeviköz headed the Turkish delegation during the first round, which took place in May, and the second round in July, the TDN has learned. Both rounds were carried out in Bern, Switzerland, which is considered an impartial country that has hosted similar secretive talks on issues like Cyprus and Iran. […]

The timeline of the secretive negotiations, coinciding with some recent positive statements by Sargsyan, stands out, however, as a strong sign for improving the conditions in the run up to substantial solutions. The Armenian president has proposed a fresh start with Turkey with the goal of normalizing relations and opening the border between the two countries, which has been closed for almost 15 years. In his article published July 6 in The Wall Street Journal's online edition, Sargsyan said he expected to “announce a new symbolic start in the two countries' relations” with his Turkish counterpart Abdullah Gül whom he invited to Armenia to watch a football game between the countries' national teams this September.

Diplomatic sources said setting up different committees to discuss different aspects of bilateral ties is a mutually considered option for a fresh start. “There are other vital questions to be discussed primarily, before the events of 1915,” noted the same sources. A previous offer of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to establish a committee of historians to study events of 1915 was rejected by former Armenian President Robert Kocharyan. This time a more comprehensive approach is reportedly being considered.
Echoing editorial in Aravot daily today, I would say that shift in Turkey related policy was the most remarkable achievement of Armenia’s incumbent president Serj Sargsyan’s first 100 days in the office. Other than that (plus some positive but so far mainly talk and occasional firing level “corruption fight” agenda), these were disappointing 100 days of missed opportunities.

He had chance (still has, I suppose) to distance himself – as much as possible – from a previous administration. Yes, he is part of it, but still… he is kind of trying but in a very subtle manner, too subtle, I would say. We still have political prisoners, there is no independent investigation into 1 March events, no high level officials brought to the justice… All in all, no real attempt at healing 1 March wounds…

For now, only immediate release of all political prisoners will create an essential basis for a dialogue with the opposition to move Armenia forward. (his election campaign motto) Otherwise, the weather forecast for autumn and winter ahead promises to be pretty severe, indeed.


artmika said...

Today's Zaman:

"President Abdullah Gül will send neighboring Armenia a conciliatory message wrapped in a warning over regional isolation when he visits the Turkish-Armenian border next week.

Gül will visit Ani, an uninhabited medieval Armenian city in the province of Kars on the Armenia border, on July 23, during a visit to the region to attend a ceremony to inaugurate the construction of the Turkish part of a regional railway passing through Turkey, Georgia and Azerbaijan; the line excludes Armenia. The presidents of Azerbaijan and Georgia will also attend the inauguration ceremony, scheduled for July 24.

Despite Turkish efforts to deepen cooperation with other regional countries at the expense of landlocked Armenia, Gül’s visit to Ani is a sign of readiness to improve ties with Yerevan. Armenia wants Turkey to restore medieval churches in Ani and Turkish authorities began renovation works in the city early this year."

"President Abdullah Gül has said he is contemplating Armenian President Serzh Sarksyan’s formal invitation to visit Yerevan for a soccer match in September.

When Gül received Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki in Ankara on Thursday, journalists asked if he would go to Yerevan, and Gül replied: “You will see when the time comes. The offer is being considered.” Armenia and Turkey will play against one another in the Armenian capital on Sept. 6 in a qualifying match of the 2010 FIFA World Cup, which will be held in South Africa."

garen said...

Nice overview and personal analysis.

I wonder what will happen when Mel Gibson's movie comes out -- the whole hell is gonna break loose.

Turkey is a complex society with 60 million people (15-25 million Kurds), as well as with many diverse social classes -- and as long as we keep branding all the persons in Turkey as "T'urk" we might never understand the complexity and internal struggles of Turkish people.

Turkey is a country that has to reconcile and renegotiate it's identity on regular basis in the midst of sedimented dichotomies: orrient/occident, secular/muslim, latin/arabic, nationalist/civic etc. It always finds itself torn in this "in-betweenness" with the constant threat of radical Islamism lurking behind the scenes and its militarism standing as the watchful guardian against that. On a social level many people in Turkey acknowledge the Armenian Genocide as a historical fact. It's a forbidden topic notwithstanding, yet I see the possibility of change springing from a more micro-political, rather than inter-statist exchange. The more of cultural and social exchange there is the more chance we have that the history will be served justly, and existing edifices (discursive, ontological, epistemic etc) will be deconstructed.

The first step is Parhhesia. (in Said's terminology "Speaking Truth to Power"). Dink was such figure, but I also see a lot of possibilities in the web: starting from Blogging on to Interactive Content and Migrant-Content (aka Web2.0)

BTW: if you want your posts to reach more eye-balls you can submit your posts to Khosq (either as a whole text or as a link with brief description). The readership there is now significant enough to compete with established newspapers.

spm said...

"Armenia-Turkey: a breakthrough? (Serj Sargsyan / influence of real opposition on Armenian politics)

artmika said...

PM Tigran Sargsyan (ArmInfo, translation via iStockAnalyst): We have to form pro-Armenian rather than anti-Turkish mentality

Yerevan, 19 July: We have to form pro-Armenian rather than anti-Turkish mentality, Armenian Prime Minister Tigran Sargsyan said at a meeting with representatives of young members of the diaspora in Tsakhkadzor today.

A hostile attitude should not get rooted in public consciousness and become a dominating idea, he said.

"You are telling me that the diaspora is making more effort to resolve the issue of the genocide of Armenians. However, this kind of attitude is detrimental to our people in the first place because in order to find correct decisions and draw correct conclusions we need a broad outlook. However, we will not have it if our priority task is confrontation with someone rather than increasing our people's welfare. This does not mean that the government does not want the genocide to be recognized. But it has at the same time to organize the country's economy and care about our citizens' wellbeing," the Armenian prime minister said.

Asked about the possibility of establishing economic ties with the countries that have a negative attitude towards Armenia, the prime minister said: "There are voices among young people about the inadmissibility of any ties with those countries. There are people who believe that they should not wear Turkish-made suits or brush their teeth with Turkish-made toothpaste. We have to fight for the restoration of historical justice and our people's dignity. But one should not think that this should be done in this way at a domestic scale. We have to protect our dignity and respect ourselves. One must not let the striving for justice, respect for the memory of our history and our ancestors be distorted and degraded and transformed into unrestrained aggression. We all, no matter whether we live in Armenia and outside it, constitute an inseparable unity since we belong to the same nation. Our goal must be the creation of a politically and economically strong motherland."

me said...

"This does not mean that the government does not want the genocide to be recognized. But it has at the same time to organize the country's economy and care about our citizens' wellbeing."

Hallelujah. If LTP said the same thing, members of a certain party would be calling for a public hanging of the traitor. Still, I don't care who says it, as long as it becomes part of long-standing policy.

It's interesting to see that Serjhik and his banda have all but abandoned their pre-election "program" and "promises"and have essentially stolen LTP's.

Anonymous said...

What pre-election program? I remember the rhetoric from LTP's program as being one to get Kocharian out of office. Seems like whoever won the election accomplished that.

I don't recall LTP with any other program, other than the typical "him evil, me good" stuff.

me said...

LTP was calling for:
1)Reconciliation with Turkey.
2)Sweeping programs to root out corruption and the prevalent "bespredel"
3)Encouraging competition
4)Establishment of the supremacy of the law and
5)A professional army.

I see how you might have missed that if you followed his campaign through H1.

Ani said...

Here's a link to LTP's December 2007 speech--apparently Tigran was listening pretty closely:

A story I found and put up on Khosq shows Turkey trying to spin the story in a different direction, so the jury's still out on whether anything will actually get done:

Anonymous said...

So, are the supporters of LTP embracing the authorities now? Normally, when supporters of a candidate who loses see policies being adopted by the election winner, this should be cause for joy, success, etc.

This is going to cause some major confusion among those taking marching orders from the hysterical Nicole Pashinyans out there, if in fact, there is acknowledged change in the air.

Ani said...

Anon, seems like you've got it backwards. The government is grasping at foreign initiatives that resemble some of the opposition's plans, probably to impress the CoE and U.S., but inside the country they have stoutly refused to a) release political prisoners, b) reform a ridiculously biased legal system (see prosecutor general for definition of "ridiculous"), c) launch a fair, thorough, and serious investigation of the March 1 killings, etc., etc.

Parsing your comment, it seems that Artmika has expressed joy in his post; however, this does not mean he or anyone is therefore required to "embrace the authorities": the one does not need to follow the other in a democratic system. Further, the "election winner" is not a phrase you should really be using as a given, since the elections were patently unfair.

To your other comment, has Nicol Pashinyan undergone a sex-change operation?? So that's what he's been doing for the last few months!!

spm said...

Someone anonymous just wants to keep things polarized. Being in favor of opposition does not mean that a smart sensible person can not see right steps made by government. I wish the anonymous and other pro-government persons could also see and appreciate positive influence of opposition on the government. Then may be everyone will realize that the issue is not what is the name of the president, but what the president does for the country. Apparently under the enormous pressure from the opposition the party of power seeks ways to improve its image. So far notable are declarations to fight corruption and overturns towards Turkey. Curiously, Armenia can not do any more than it does to improve relations with Turkey, but there is a whole lot more (qualitatively and quantitatively) that can be done to fight corruption. If the government is serious about fighting corruption then it will need all the prison cells filled with innocent political prisoners. As long as they are not freed and not replaced with corrupt members of ruling party, we hardly will EMBRACE authorities.

Anonymous said...

Cause and effect in politics should not be driven by wishful thinking.

Attributing the reforms of, for example, Tigran Sargsyan, to the backward-looking LTP is almost farcical.

LTP is from the Armenian political stone ages, and drawing inspiration from the architect of much of the systemic misery which has taken root in Armenia is absurd.

me said...

"drawing inspiration from the architect of much of the systemic misery which has taken root in Armenia is absurd."
Well, tapping two people (Tigran and Serjhik Sargsyans) who are the rarest of rare politicans in Armenia in that they have survived (either politically or literally) both LTP's and Robik's administrations isn't exactly on the cutting edge of reasonableness.

Tigran and Serjhik Sargsyans have stolen LTP's program. Point by point. One of maybe a dozen articulate Republican MPs, Armen Ashotyan, has said repeatedly that they were going to. And that's that.

Anonymous said...

Mr. me - As others have articulately stated, LTP's election program was little more than whipping up hysteria, vague apologies for mistakes made ---actually, simply a dig at the current authorities, no real apologies for his disasterous mismanagement ---, and populist chants.

The jury is still out on the reforms, by the way, but if enacted, I think it will be a big tribute to the current leadership, pulling off something neither LTP nor Qocharyan could do.