Wednesday, 15 April 2009

Obama, Turkey, and I

I never thought that PR could be so overwhelming.

It was like a huge show, like a Hollywood movie, or some would say a rock concert.

I decided to make this post only after this wave went down a bit.

I felt that I am under attack by all those media reports which forced me to choose between the Genocide recognition and rapprochement with Turkey. I refuse to consider such choice. I do not think they are mutually exclusive.

I am neither encouraged nor discouraged by Obama’s words. It was OK speech. You could not have expected more at that moment, at that time.

I do not buy “it’s not a right time” argument. Due to its geographical location and regional geopolitics, Turkey will always be a country of strategic significance. If we follow “it’s not a right time” argument, there will never be a “right time”. Just because there are strategic interests, a country cannot be free of human rights abuses, current or past, and especially the most extreme level of it – Genocide. Sadly, and not only with regards to Turkey, putting ‘strategic importance’ before human rights is widespread. Call me naïve, but I did (and still do) support Obama hoping that human rights and (at least relatively) ethical politics will be brought back to the global politics. Obama’s first steps in presidency proved that he is the man for the job to make changes. Therefore, the only right thing to do for Obama is to follow his pre-election pledges and recognise the Armenian Genocide.

Let’s put it this way: I will be very disappointed if Obama won’t stick to his promises, and I will be very disappointed if recent positive signs in Armenia-Turkey rapprochement fail. I am not convinced that recognition of the Armenian Genocide by the US will have a long term negative consequences. US are as important to Turkey, as Turkey to the US. Although not on the same scale, but France’s recent example proves that countries move on for more practical purposes. On the other hand, having secured the US formal recognition will perhaps help many in Armenian Diaspora to recover from a ‘Genocide identity’ and start focusing on more pressing needs for Armenia, that is human rights, regional peace, economy etc. (vain hopes?) Well, I do not know how these all will develop, but Turkey could have done much more if serious in normalisation of relationships without bullying tactics, with opening the border in the immediate aftermath of Russia-Georgia war (this could have an important humanitarian explanation).

Human rights abuses and crimes against humanity can never be considered as an internal matter of countries. It’s in a large part due to the external pressures, and the ‘threat’ of US recognition, that Turkey’s official position shows signs of changes. Of course, changes boosted internally too… Hrant Dink, intellectuals… In any case, for me, the most important and positive signs are Turkey’s internal developments, where Armenian question is becoming a less of a taboo, and increasing number of voices question the official line. While external pressures could damage this trend, they could also help in understanding that to avoid external pressures and manipulations they have to clean up this issue internally.

I have to say, I am supportive of Armenian government’s general position in relation to rapprochement with Turkey. (I do not know all specifics to be more precise) Armenian side did whatever possible to do to pave the way for reconciliation despite Turkey’s official refusal to acknowledge the Armenian Genocide. Armenian officials were more than clear that they are for rapprochement without any preconditions. This is the only right and acceptable thing to do. Tying the opening of the border and reconciliation with other issues, such as Karabakh, is not only contra-productive, but aims at sabotaging the whole process.


Richard said...

While I understand that Obama had to be delicate on his first trip to Turkey one has to be skeptical about Turkish pronouncements which require Armenia to meet certain conditions prior to re-establishing diplomatic relations. It again seems that Turkey is playing games by dangling improved relations with Armenia to hold off Genocide recognition while at the same time setting up hurdles to diplomatic and economic relations with Armenia.

Let's hope that on April 24th Obama does the right thing and uses the word Genocide.

Anonymous said...

your post is classical orientalist point of view. As you can guess, i am a Turk but not a donkey as the armenians say.Turkish people dont want normalizing the relations with Armenia. We dont like to talk with people who blame and swear us everyday. We believe that nothing can make happy these armenians except killing all of the turks in the world. First of all, armenia invaded land of Azeris and killed thousand of people in Hojali region.Secondly, they have dreams about Turkish lands. They cannot understand that van,kars,sivas and mountain ararat are the lands of turkey. And in Turkey no goverment can recognize genocide lies.We are Turks and we will not leave our brothers in Azerbaijan alone and one thing is in my mind. If we dont want to believe genocide lie, who can stop us? if we believe in this way, what can change our beliefs?your money, your media, your churches,your armenia,your diaspora,your ideas? dude, we will not change our minds.