Turkey needs post-2015 strategy on Armenian genocide claims, says Turkish diplomat
Cansu Çamlıbel ISTANBUL
Armenian institutions are working hard as 2015 approaches, says Cengizer. HÜRRİYET Photo / Emre YUNUSOĞLUArmenian institutions have engaged in a campaign to blame Turkey on the centenary of 1915 Armenian killings, and Turkey should have a strategy in the event that it fails to counter the claims, according to a senior Turkish diplomat.
“I have just come back from Washington, and I saw the preparations there,” Ambassador Altay Cengizer, who currently holds the position of director-general for Policy Planning at the Turkish Foreign Ministry, told daily Hürriyet in a recent interview. “Their aim is to leave Turkey with a past it cannot deal with; that is why they are targeting 2015.”
Cengizer has recently written a book, “Adil Hafızanın Işığında” (In the Light of Just Memory), which deals with the process that led to the Ottoman Empire joining World War I and the collapse of the empire, while trying to make a humanistic approach to the killing of hundreds of thousands of Armenian in 1915. Although he is an active diplomat, Cengizer notes that the book reflects his own views as a historian, not the ministry’s official stance.
According to Cengizer, one of the worst scenarios for Ankara in 2015 is the recognition of what many around the term the Armenian genocide by the United States.
“Turkey will do its best to tell what it believes is right against these claims that target its own identity,” said the diplomat. “But time will show how successful it will be. If we fail, there will be need to develop a post-2015 strategy, there is no other way.”
Cengizer likened to situation to a penalty kick in football.
“If I were an Armenian, I would have continued to say what I have been saying,” he said. “Because the 100th year is in a way a penalty shot. We challenge the shot, but they [Armenians] will take it. They see the 100th year as a penalty shot rewarded to them and they will try to convert it into a goal. Our biggest problem here is the belief that the Armenian explanation brings a moral superiority – which in fact is not the case.”
In his book, Cengizer uses “Meds Yeghern,” an Armenian term meaning “great calamity” that is also used by United States President Barack Obama, to define the Armenian killings, and believes that wording is important.
“Insisting on the term genocide stands in the way of getting to the humanitarian nature of the issue. Genocide is a political term, and Turkey does not deserve to be presented to the world as a nation that has committed genocide. How can a government that is about to commit genocide place Armenians in its most important ministers’ posts, such as Communications Minister Oskan Mardikyan?” he said.
“The Holocaust was proven with over 15,000 pages of documents. They sent telegraphs even to Japan, saying ‘there are 15,000 Jewish people in Shanghai, detain them.’ When asked about documents, we are accused of being ‘document fetishists.’ Will they give us a silver or bronze medal in a game won by the Germans?” he said.
According to Cengizer, the government “was forced by the circumstances” to deport the Armenians.
“My thesis is to go to the humanitarian nature of the problems,” said the diplomat. “I accept what those poor Armenians went through. When one sees the photographs of those children, he sure thinks about those who led them to that suffering. But, as I prove in my book, Turkey did not deport the Armenians with joy and determination. The decision was taken with a major problem; there was no other way, unfortunately.”