Turkey resentful of Germany and Vatican over Armenian issue

Turkey resentful of Germany and Vatican over Armenian issue

Almost a month has passed since April 24, the date that marked the 100th anniversary of the 1915 Armenian tragedy.

No one is talking about it in Turkey any more. Naturally, it is no longer on the world’s agenda. But I am sure that both in Yerevan and Ankara a general assessment is being made about this important turning point.

One thing is for sure: Turkey was caught at a time when it is not enjoying a particularly bright image internationally. Despite this, April 24 passed leaving behind minimum damage as far as Turkey’s bilateral relations are concerned.

However, it seems that Turkey remains particularly resentful of two international actors. One of these is the Vatican and the other is Germany.

The Pope’s reference to the Armenian tragedy as “the first genocide of the 20th century” came as a shock to Turkey, as diplomatic representatives of the Holy See had assured to the very last minute that Pope Francis would refrain from using the “G word.” 

In fact, the Turkish ambassador to the Vatican had even been scheduled to attend a mass to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the tragedy, in the expectation that Pope Francis would talk of “shared grievances.” What would have been a diplomatic embarrassment was averted, as at the last minute the Turkish envoy did not go, after he was informed about the Pope’s intention. The ambassador, who was recalled to Ankara for consultations, will not return to the Vatican until at least the end of the summer. 

Ankara believes that Pope Francis’s statement had a multiplier effect throughout the world. The Pope’s statement was followed by decisions from the parliaments of Luxembourg and Austria, which recognized the killings of Armenians at the hands of the Ottoman Empire during World War I as genocide.

Germany’s stance, on the other hand, while it was not anticipated, did not come as a huge surprise. Ankara believes that Germany is an active behind-the-scenes actor to promote the view that the Armenian tragedy is the first genocide of the 20th century. Several projects aimed at proving that the Armenian massacres amounted to genocide, supported and financed by the German institutions, seem to have strengthened views among Turkish officials that Germany is seeking to relativize the Holocaust.

German President Joachim Gauck used the “G word” at a religious ceremony held at the Berlin Cathedral. Beyond this, the Turkish side seems to be very concerned about German initiatives to include this issue in the curriculum in a way that will also affect the children of Turks living in Germany. 

Turkey’s homework continues

No doubt, Armenia and the Armenian diaspora will continue their recognition efforts, and Turkey will remain vigilant to counter these efforts. But what is important is that this dossier is no longer limited at the diplomatic level to “counter-recognition efforts.”

Ankara seems to remain dedicated to continuing to seek dialogue with the Armenian diaspora, to seek a diplomatic breakthrough with Yerevan, and - most importantly - to continue the shy steps of reviving the Armenian cultural legacy in Anatolia. 

One wants to remain hopeful that each year, on April 24, additional steps will come from the Turkish government that will facilitate reconciliation with Armenians both at home and abroad.