Sunday, 23 September

Istanbul Diary: Turkish Analyst "Back Pedals" on Genocide



"You are of course aware that genocides can also be perpetrated by individuals and not by governments."

This was the remark made by Mensur Akgun, Director of the Global Political Trends Center (GPOT) in Istanbul where I had a chance to meet and talk with him during my stay here.

I had posed the following question, to Mensur Akgun.

Who should resolve the Armenian Genocide issue –political leaders or historians?

“The issue isn’t connected to historians. The Turkish side has numerous documents attesting to the fact that there was no premeditation. The Armenian side has just as many documents to the contrary. But if the historians can reach some general consensus, their conclusions can be presented to the politicians. Then, there is a good chance that the matter will go to arbitration. If the Genocide was carried out by specific individuals in specific location in Turkey, the Turks would be obliged to recognize it. But, of course, there would be political, juridical and historical elements involved. You are of course aware that genocides can also be perpetrated by individuals and not by governments. Each side could learn much from assembling historians, the development of political agreement and from the experience obtained in resolving that issue. By the way, even if we don’t achieve all this, and just are able to normalize relations, then no one will talk about the Genocide. It’s more likely that Turks and Armenians would commemorate April 24 together. Many people commemorate April 24 as a day of calamity and not genocide. Of course, there will be certain Armenians and Turks not content with this but this displeasure won’t make a difference. We must act so that this issue is no longer up for political discussion. Naturally, it can continue to be a matter for personal debate. Many of you have suffered, I have no doubts.”

The analyst says that the issue of rapprochement between Ankara and Yerevan periodically pops up on the official radar as an agenda item, but that Turkey doesn’t view it as a primary concern.

In contrast, Mr. Akgun argues that Armenia has two large problems with Turkey and Azerbaijan.

“Since there is hope for normalization, you discuss that issue at length. You always refer to history, which arises from the interests of your political circles, because otherwise you’d start to talk about other issues; for example corruption.

Mr. Akgun added that Turkey has many other problems besides this and points to the militarization of the country and the Kurdish issue.

Thus, he says that it is only logical that Turkey is more often discussed in Armenia than Armenia is in Turkey.

A similar view is expressed by Sabiha Gundogar, Foreign Affairs Program Officer at the TESEV (Turkish Economic and Social Studies Foundation).

“It is my impression that they want immediate improvement in relations in Armenia and that the border open tomorrow. They want recognition of the Genocide within one year. But the process in Turkey is a gradual one. The Armenian issue was never at the top of the list in Turkey and will never be.”

Mr. Akgun told me that Turkey is developing and becoming more self-confident. He said that Turkey would not benefit in a tangible way from opening the border with Armenia.

“Sure, tourists would come and go but there isn’t much trade going on. Also, sadly, you don’t have the natural resources like Azerbaijan. We can’t make the same investments in Armenia to get oil or gas. We have invested billions in Azerbaijan. Perhaps we could purchase a few refrigeration units and a handful of “Beko” stores in Yerevan, but not more. Your population is tiny and Armenia isn’t developed economically. We see no long-term economic potential in Armenia. There is no comparison with Azerbaijan. In addition, we regard the Azerbaijanis as brothers. That’s another story. If you had oil, then I can assure you that would have been a good reason to normalize relations.”

When I asked Aypars Gorgulu, anther analyst who works for Gundogar, is Armenia interests Turkey from an economic standpoint, he replied - “not really”.

“Turkey’s eastern regions aren’t that developed. Armenia is the same. Thus, the opening of the border would have limited economic repercussions. That’s not to say that Armenia isn’t interesting. I think that Turkey’s eastern districts would benefit somewhat from an open border. Turkey is heavily dependent on Georgia in many ways; the transit gas and oil pipelines. This makes Armenia an isolated island. An opening of the borders would create transit possibilities because even though the parties seek to isolate Armenia and focus on Georgia, the latter isn’t all that stable a country. We saw that with the war with Russia. Thus, we have to explore alternative paths. Armenia could greatly benefit from an opening of the border.


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Comments (5)
1. Ergun Kirlikovali19:52 - 29 April, 2011
The question of who should resolve the alleged Armenian Genocide issue –political leaders or historians, and the answer both show a lack of fundamental understanding of the issue. The question should not have been limited to politicians and historians, as the correct address is the 1948 U.N. Convention on Prevention and Punishment of genocide and its institution created for the sole purpose of litigating genocide claims: the International Court of Justice. The 1948 convention defines the term and how a verdict shall be reached: via "due process" at a "competent tribunal". That means both sides can produce claims, counter claims, evidence, witnesses, expert testimonies, and more; all of this can be cross examined by all parties involved, as they should be. If something like that happens, most of the world will hear the Turkish side of the story for the first time as the Armenian propaganda and lobbying for the last 100 years flooded the Western media , politics, and academia, pretty much censoring the Turkish views. Short of a definitive verdict, a la Nuremberg 1945, this issue will continue to fester. Turkish documents are very convincing that there was no premeditation which is why Armenians pulled out of the VAT platform several years ago, refusing to exchange further documents. They saw Turkish documents were very damning to the Armenian claims of genocide. One last thing, Armenians have turned this issue into raison-detre, the sole reason for their existence and a unifying feature in their culture and identity, and a lucrative industry involving books, films, panels, and more. Armenians hope to get rich with a genocide verdict by flooding the court systems of the West with million frivolous lawsuits. Armenians have not prepared themselves for the truth, which will be based on Armenian agitation, bombings of government installations, bank raids, revolts, treason, territorial demands, and the resulting Muslim, mostly Turkish victims, which triggered TERESET (the temporary resettlement.) The world might finally see it for what it was: an inter-communal warfare fought by irregulars against a backdrop of a brutal world war.
2. rahageets00:02 - 30 April, 2011
I would suggest that Akgun and Ergun read Taner Akcam's book "A Shameful Act". The man puts it all into perspective and the conclusion reached is that it was a planned, premeditated act of genocide. There are many more works by professional scholars attesting the same, I suggest Akcam only because here is a Turk that faces reality head-on.omment...
3. Aram01:50 - 30 April, 2011
Mr. Kirlikovali, I believe we Armenians would prefer an International Court of Justice investigating the Armenian or Turkish claims of genocide. No propaganda is intended.
4. Գոհար, զինվորի մայր21:57 - 1 May, 2011
Նախ թուրքերն անմեղ զոհերի հիշատակին թող հուշարձան կանգնեցնեն, ներողություն խնդրեն ու նոր մտածեն բարեկամության հուշարձանի մասին... շատ որախ եմ, որ այն ապամոնտաժում են... դա ծաղր էր մեր հանդեպ...
5. Iranian11:43 - 5 May, 2011
Irrespective of whether Armenia or Turkey wins the stage over genocide issue, Armenia currently seems to be the loser in econemy because of this depate and being landlocked. Imagine the current debate on genocide going on for another 100 years from now, which country would lose from the economic point of view? Definitely, Armenia will get more from the normalization of relations with Turkey. The reverse does not seem to be true. The last two decades testify to this. I visited Yerevan in summer 2009 and feel a deep pity for why they drag something gone in the past. Bygones are bygones. Back from Armenia, I have started reading news in Google about both Armenia and Azerbaijan. I see news on Azerbaijan to be more related to economy and development whereas the news on Armenia is more concerned with history and genocide. Simply do a news research in Google and the evidence will be the objective judge for you. Start building Armenia and come to terms with issues in history. History is history, but is not, for sure, the present reality. The people are good. As an Iranian, I think Turkey will be the major element in improving Armenia in comparison to other states in the region since Turkey is really developing in economy. Wish you all peace and prosperity.
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