Sweet dreams of Turkey and Armenia
BÜLENT ARASI had an interesting dream a couple of days ago. There was a gathering of leading figures from the Armenian and Turkish communities, held somewhere like a cultural center, in Canada. It seemed to me like a regular meeting for the exchange of ideas on issues of common interest as well as an opportunity for family-based socializing. I remember a children’s newspaper prepared in Turkish and Armenian, with pictures and contributions by school kids. One topic on the agenda was organizing a study trip to Istanbul and Yerevan to visit cultural artifacts and to discover the common heritage of Turks, Armenians, and others. This was obviously an exciting project, since people were enthusiastic about it.
I talked to an Armenian businessman who had an office in Argentina. He mentioned his participation in the Turkish economy minister’s visit to Buenos Aires, and the meetings with the Argentinian business community to promote investment in Turkey. A young teacher from a Turkish school in Ottawa put out some leaflets about Armenian-language courses at his school.
The popular song, “Fair Bride” (Sarı Gelin) did not sound sad to me this time. I am not sure in what language it was being sung, but this emotional lyric was understood by all. Two ladies were discussing recipes for the Turkish and Armenian versions of Noah’s Pudding (known as Aşure in Turkish and Abaşanur in Armenian). The only difference is there is no bean in the Armenian version. It is a sweet made of dried fruit and nuts and pomegranate seeds, spiced with cinnamon and cloves. I joined the conversation and suggested that they add coconut too. They looked at me strangely, and said, “Add whatever you like, and leave out what you do not like!”
The newspaper on the table attracted my attention. There was a story on the recently opened Azerbaijan-Armenia-Turkey railway line, and the need to improve its capacity. Due to its strategic value, the railway had become a central route connecting Asia and Europe. The middle corridor of the East-West connection was also linking both sides of the Caspian, and integrating the region into the West.
I approached the Turkish and Armenian ambassadors, who were discussing new energy
pipeline routes with a number of others. The expanded Southern Corridor with its gas and oil
pipelines had turned out to be a key source of revenue for the regional countries and nearby states. It is a secure and stable corridor, which satisfies the economic, security and political concerns of all parties. The two ambassadors mentioned the stabilizing role of these joint projects, their interdependent nature paving way for improved welfare and peace-building in the Caucasus and the Balkans, among others. They were referring to the Azerbaijani ambassador, who was attending these meeting regularly, as an expert on energy issues. An interesting issue was the Armenian lobby’s push for further European recognition of the importance of these projects in France.
One source of anxiety was the increasing number of Armenians returning to Armenia. The recent economic growth, infrastructural developments and welfare in Armenia had caused a wave of reverse migration to Armenia, a reversal of earlier trends. The owner of a tourism agency was happy with the number of Armenian tourists visiting Turkey. He mentioned that Turkish consulates were providing services to Armenian citizens in countries without Armenian missions.
I had a nice feeling when I woke up. The conversation on the recipes for Noah’s Pudding had hinted on what sweet dreams are made of. What you have will be enough. Even just some dried fruits and nuts; whatever is leftover is fine. You can add more, and leave out what you do not want. I would speculate that it was Mr. Ahmet Davutoğlu’s visit to Yerevan that triggered my reflections on this issue, which became such a sweet dream. We have delegated the peace-making duties to our policy makers.
Davutoğlu’s visit is a constructive move and needs to be welcomed and positively responded to by his Armenian counterpart.
Without a doubt, normalization between Turkey and Armenia will make this world, in particular our region, a better place. The recent past is full of animosity, hate and pain, but the future does not need to be like that. Hope, courage and commitment are enough to make this sweet dream into a reality.