Turkish sense of justice: Bash the French, pardon the Swiss

Turkish sense of justice: Bash the French, pardon the Swiss

If I were Nicolas Sarkozy, I would not take the Turkish reaction too seriously. 

Seeing Swiss Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy Rey given the honor of addressing the annual meeting of Turkish ambassadors, Sarkozy would have concluded the famous motto of a former Turkish president, “yesterday is yesterday, today is today,” formerly uttered to justify inconsistencies with the past, is more valid today than ever.

When reminded of the fact Switzerland convicted a Turkish citizen for denying Armenians’ claim of genocide, the Turkish Foreign Ministry argues the Swiss case is different than the French example. The Swiss did not endorse a law recognizing 1915 events as genocide says the Ministry, adding Doğu Perinçek was convicted as a result of Swiss anti-racism legislation.

The two cases might not be identical but I can still see a lot of reason as to why it would have been preferable not to have Calmy Rey as a guest of honor in Ankara.

In 1998 the government of Geneva Canton endorsed a decision recognizing 1915 killings as genocide. Calmy Rey, the then finance minister of that government, put her signature to the decision.

The court in Lausanne that convicted Perinçek in 2007, recalled the 1998 decision and pointed out Calmy Rey who signed the decision has now become foreign minister of the country. The Perinçek case has always been taken very seriously in Turkey, prompting Ankara to react and straining relations with Switzerland.

But all those cold shoulders were somehow forgotten and Calmy Rey was given the honor of playing the role of mediator in 2009 in the road leading to the signing of historic protocols which, if adopted, were going to normalize relations between Ankara and Yerevan.

In an article dated 2009 I severely criticized why the foreign minister of a country who had angered Turkey so much over the genocide issue had been given this “awarding position” of being the “peacemaker” between two hostile countries.

Calmy Rey has changed. In addition, the Swiss government has acted against initiatives (in 2003 namely) to recognize 1915 events as genocide in federal parliament, says the Foreign Ministry.

That could be. But then what should we do about the Swiss position in the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) regarding the Perinçek issue? The Court asked both sides to table their view underlining the fact this is a case about freedom of expression, in other words, asking them to avoid trying to convince the court whether 1915 was genocide or not. 

Despite this indirect warning, the Swiss government recalled in the defense it sent to the Court the decisions of around 20 national parliaments accepting 1915 events as genocide, and insisted the 1915 events are qualified as genocide from an international legal point of view. The Swiss, by the way, did not accept friendly resolution.

I am not suggesting we should vilify Calmy Rey and suspend all relations with the Swiss. In fact, I think in the case of France we are blowing it out of proportion. But against the background I have tried to summarize above, I see no reason why we should honor an official of a country with whom we have a serious problem.

She is a European minister very supportive of Turkey, some say. Supportive where? Switzerland is not even an EU member. 

Let us be consistent and let us have a sense of proportionality. We over-exaggerate while criticizing our opponents, and reward those whose friendship is very dubious to say the least.