The commemoration of Armenian tragedy...the day after
By the weekend, we will have left the big day behind; the 100th anniversary of the World War I killings of Armenians at the hands of the Ottomans will have been marked.
By the weekend, both Turks and Armenians will be looking at a balance sheet. How many countries have called it genocide, or refrained from using the term? How many world leaders attended the commemorations in Armenia? How many abstained?
Suppose Armenians end up tremendously happy about the result or disappointed about it. Suppose Turks end up satisfied about their damage control efforts or frustrated and angry about the end result.
What exactly will have changed?
“Our biggest problem is to have structured our policies with Armenia upon claims of genocide. There is just one date we wait for the whole year: April 24. Which countries will use the word genocide? What will the U.S. president say? At the end of December [each year] the Turkish foreign ministry starts focusing on that. Initiatives take place to stop resolutions that will recognize it as genocide. All of this stops on April 24,” Ünal Çeviköz, a former ambassador, told daily Hürriyet last week.
“If the word is not used and there are no reasons to react to certain countries, we relax by April 25 and we do nothing until next January,” said Çeviköz who was previously Turkey’s envoy to London.
He suggests Turkey needs to endorse a healthy policy towards Armenia as of April 25, 2015, to avoid experiencing similar stress each year.
Indeed, both Turkey and Armenia should start thinking about “what now?” as of April 25. Armenia can opt to continue on capitalizing on its gains. But the hope of an increase in the number of countries who recognize the Armenian tragedy as genocide leading to a radical change in Turkey’s policies will prove futile.
Similarly, on the part of Turks counting on Turkey’s clout as a regional and international actor to counter Armenian efforts is not going to make this problem go away.
April 25 should not be a day where, after looking at the balance sheet, both sides close the dossier until next year.
It would have been unrealistic to expect a new initiative for reconciliation between Armenia and Turkey while the former was preparing for the 100th anniversary and the latter for general elections.
After leaving the commemorations behind, the formation of a new government in Turkey following the June 7 elections should provide a new fresh start of negotiations between the two sides. This time though, past mistakes should be avoided and a formula found to include indirectly both the Azerbaijan and Armenian diaspora in the picture.
Meanwhile, independent of the process with Armenia, the Turkish government should continue to take all the necessary steps to improve the conditions of the Armenian community in Turkey, while contact with the Armenian diaspora should be intensified.
Despite some highly irritating individual statements from Turkish officials recently, the Turkish government officially accepted the sufferings of the Armenians last year, and this year it will be represented in the commemoration at the Armenian patriarchate.
This might appear as insufficient for certain circles. But it should not be underestimated. The genie is out to push Turkey to face some of the dark pages of its history. It will be impossible to push the genie back.