Genocide recognitions further isolate Turkey

Genocide recognitions further isolate Turkey

In a comprehensive interview with daily Hürriyet’s Cansu Çamlıbel on April 24, Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan underlined in an open way that Armenia’s “struggle does not end in 2015 – it will just enter a more mature phase.”  

“Let us not forget that we have had an opportunity to raise the issue of the Armenian Genocide and condemn it only after the declaration of independence of the third Republic of Armenia. And that means that our struggle has just started. And it will be more coordinated and purposeful in the upcoming years,” he told Hürriyet on the occasion of the centennial commemoration of the mass killings of his ancestors at the hands of the Ottoman Empire. 

A years-long vigorous and aggressive campaign by the Armenian state and the Armenian diaspora to get the genocide recognized by more countries yielded important results in 2015. Pope Francis kicked off the flare by describing the 1915 incidents as genocide, in an obvious message delivered to the entire Catholic World. The European Parliament, the Austrian Parliament, German President Joachim Gauck and Russian President Vladimir Putin among many others lined up to express the “G-word,” at the expense of drawing Turkey’s reaction. The Russian Duma and the German Bundestag were still debating over resolutions for the recognition of the genocide late afternoon on April 24 when this column was being written. 

U.S. President Barack Obama preferred to avoid using “genocide” to describe the 1915 incidents, but it should not be forgotten that he still has nearly two years left in office and that he may find another opportunity to call this atrocity a genocide. It should be well understood that Obama did not refrain from using this word because of the potential Turkish reaction but because of existing interests of his country. From now until the end of his mandate, Obama could announce that he describes the 1915 incidents as genocide either verbally or through a statement. 

This overall picture tells so many things at the same time. First of all, it has been revealed that Turkey failed to counter the Armenian campaign diplomatically, politically and scientifically. Turkey’s sole strategy was to move the centennial commemoration of the Gallipoli Battle to April 24 in a move to distract attention from Yerevan. 

Turkey’s weak and outdated campaign has produced nothing but more anti-Western rhetoric, which pushed more countries to recognize the genocide. 

Turkey has withdrawn ambassadors from Austria and the Vatican and likely will from Germany and Russia as well if these countries’ parliaments recognize the genocide. With the European Parliament already voting in favor of a similar resolution, it would not be a surprise to observe another cold era in Ankara’s ties with the EU. Most EU countries are now listed among countries that have labeled the 1915 incidents as genocide and this would create more obstacles in front of Turkey’s full membership negotiations with Brussels. If this situation worsens, the risk of the EU putting the recognition of genocide as a condition before full Turkish membership will grow.

On the Russian front, the situation is no less complicated. Putin’s statement on the occasion of the 1915 incidents was not expected to be that strong given the deepening economic and energy cooperation between Ankara and Moscow. In a recent visit to Kazakhstan, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan went so far that he has shown interest in partnership with the Russia-led Eurasian Economic Union, an international organization composed of Russia, Kazakhstan, Belarus and Armenia. It seems Erdoğan is in a full political abyss, as he forgets that it was Putin’s ambition to increase his influence in the region by keeping NATO and the EU out of its area of dominance that kicked off the Ukraine crisis and the annexation of Crimea by Russia. 

The scope and tone of the Turkish reaction against Russia will provide evidence on whether Erdoğan will continue his inconsistency in dealing with Turkey’s northern neighbor. One of the most important indicators would perhaps be the future of the Turkish Stream, a pipeline that would carry Russian gas to Europe via Turkey. 

This year’s struggle between Turkey and Armenia also reduces the chances for a breakthrough on the Nagorno-Karabakh problem between Armenia and Azerbaijan. Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu criticized the Russian and French presidents for attending the centennial commemoration ceremonies in Yerevan but he preferred to highlight their role in the Minsk Group, set by three co-chairs, France, Russia and the U.S., to resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh problem.  

“Russia’s and France’s presence in Yerevan casts a shadow over the impartiality of the Minsk Group as well. Necessary diplomatic initiatives are being taken about them too,” Davutoğlu said. Instead of issuing a direct criticism on Putin and French President Francois Hollande, Davutoğlu preferred to reflect it on the Nagorno-Karabakh issue, implying that the breakthrough on this already frozen conflict will be more difficult. 

To make the long story short, this campaign being carried out by Armenia has put Turkey’s image abroad into a more difficult state and put Turkey’s ties with the Western world into dire straits that can cause more isolation.