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Review & Outlook - 03/06/2009

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NOTHING PERSONAL:  TURKEY'S TOP TEN

Armenian News Network / Groong
March 6, 2009

By Raffi K. Hovannisian

YEREVAN, ARMENIA


That an Armenian repatriate, American-born into a legacy of
remembrance inherited from a line of survivors of genocide nearly a
century ago, feels compelled to entitle his thoughts with a focus on
Turkey-- and not Armenia-- reveals a larger problem, a gaping wound,
and an imperative for closure long overdue on both sides of history's
tragic divide.

The new Armenia, independent of its longstanding statelessness since
1991, is my everyday life, as are the yearnings of my fellow citizens
for their daily dignity, true democracy, the rule of law, and an
empowering end to sham elections and the corruption, arrogance and
unaccountability of power.  Having suffered so much in the past, from
the Ottoman Empire to the Soviet Union, today the Armenian people
ironically are deprived in their own Republic of the very rights and
freedoms that foreign empires had so often violently denied them.
Armenia deserves good governance and better leadership across the
board, and that time must come to pass.

`Generation next' is neither victim nor subject, nor any longer an
infidel `millet.'  We seek not, in obsequious supplicancy, to curry
the favor of the world's strong and self-important, whose interests
often trump their own principles and whose geopolitics engulf the
professed values of liberty and justice for all.  Gone are the
residual resources for kissing up or behind.

And so, with a clarity of conscience and a goodness of heart, I expect
Turkey and its administration to address the multiple modern
challenges they face and offer to this end a list of realities, not
commandments, that will help enable a new era of regional
understanding and the globalization of a peaceful order that
countenances neither victims nor victimizers.

1.  Measure sevenfold, cut once: This old local adage suggests a neat
lesson for contemporary officials.  Before launching, at Davos or
elsewhere, pedantic missiles in condemnation of the excesses of
others, think fully about the substance and implications of your
invectives and your standing to articulate them.  This is not a narrow
Armenian assertion; it includes all relevant dimensions, including
Cyprus, the Kurds, the Assyrians, the Alewis, the Jewish and other
minorities.  Occupation, for its part, is the last word Turkish
representatives should be showering in different directions at
different international fora, lest someone require a textbook
definition of duplicity.  Maintain dignity but tread lightly, for
history is a powerful and lasting precedent.

2.  Self-reflection: Democracies achieve domestic success, applicants
accomplish European integration, and countries become regional drivers
only when they have the political courage and moral fortitude to
undergo this process.  Face yourself, your own conduct, and the track
record of state on behalf of which you speak.  Not only the success
stories and points of pride, but the whole deal.  Be honest and brave
about it; you do possess the potential to graduate from decades of
denialism.  Recent trends in civil society, however tentative and
preliminary, attest to this.

3.  The Armenian genocide: Don't fidget for the escape hatch, take
responsibility.  There is so much evidentiary documentation in the US
National Archives, the British Public Record Office, the Quai d'Orsay,
and even the German military archives to disarm the various
instruments of official denial that have been employed over the years.
But this is only the paperwork.  The most damning testimony is not in
the killing of more than a million human souls in a manifest execution
of the 20th century's first genocide or, in the words of the American
ambassador reporting at the time, `race extermination.'

4.  Homeland-killing: Worse than genocide, as incredible as that
sounds, is the premeditated deprivation of a people of its ancestral
heartland.  And that's precisely what happened.  In what amounted to
the Great Armenian Dispossession, a nation living for more than three
millennia upon its historic patrimony-- at times amid its own
sovereign kingdoms and more frequently as a subject of occupying
empires-- was in a matter of months brutally, literally, and
completely eradicated from its land.  Unprecedented in human history,
this expropriation of homes and lands, churches and monasteries,
schools and colleges, libraries and hospitals, properties and
infrastructures constitutes to this day a murder, not only of a
people, but of a civilization, a culture, a time-earned way of life.
This is where the debate about calling it genocide or not becomes
absurd, trivial, and tertiary.  A homeland was exterminated by the
Turkish republic's predecessor and under the world's watchful eye, and
we're negotiating a word.  Even that term is not enough to encompass
the magnitude of the crime.

5.  Coming clean: It is the only way to move forward.  This is not a
threat, but a statement of plain, unoriginal fact.  Don't be afraid of
the price tag.  What the Armenians lost is priceless.  Instead of
constantly and viscerally attempting to flee this catastrophic legacy
through the decoy of counterarguments and commissions of various
kinds, return to the real script.  And rather than complain about or
anticipate Armenian demands, undertake your own critical introspection
and say what you plan to do to right the wrong, to atone for and to
educate, to revive and restore, and to celebrate-- yes, you, we and
Hrant together-- the Armenian heritage of what is today eastern
Turkey.  Finally take the initiative that you have not yet launched,
the one that leads to a real reconciliation based on the terrible
truth but bolstered by a fresh call to candor.

6.  Never again: The rewards of coming to this reality check far
outweigh its perils.  What is unfortunately unique about the Holocaust
is not the evil of the Shoah itself, but the demeanor of postwar
Germany to face history and itself, to assume responsibility for the
crimes of the preceding regime, to mourn and to dignify, to seek
forgiveness and make redemption, and to incorporate this ethic into
the public consciousness and the methodology of state.  Germany, now a
leader in the democratic world, has only gained and grown from its
demeanor.  Brandt's kneeling should not remain unique.  A veritable
leader of the new Turkey, the European one of the future, might do the
same, not in cession but in full expression of his and his nation's
pride and honor.  My grandmother, who survived the genocide owing to
the human heights of a blessed Turkish neighbor who sheltered little
Khengeni of Ordu from the fate of her family, did not live to see that
day.

7.  The politics of power: Turkey's allies can help it along this way.
Whether it's from Washington and its transatlantic partners, the
European Union, the Muslim world or even Moscow, to which Ankara has
most interestingly been warming up of late, the message might be
delivered that, in the third millennium AD, the world will be governed
by a different set of rules, that might will respect right, that no
crime against humanity or its denial will be tolerated.  The Obama
Administration bears the burden, but has the capacity for this
leadership of light.  And it will be tested soon and again.

8.  Turkey and Armenia: These sovereign neighbors have never, in all
of history, entered into a bilateral agreement with each other.
Whether diplomatic, economic, political, territorial, or
security-specific, no facet of their relationship, or the actual
absence thereof, is regulated by a contract freely and fairly entered
into between the two republics.  It's about time.  Hence, the process
of official contacts and reciprocal visits that unraveled in the wake
of a Turkey-Armenia soccer match in September 2008 should mind this
gap and structure the discourse not to run away from the divides
emanating from the past, but to bridge them through the immediate
establishment of diplomatic relations without the positing or
posturing of preconditions, the lifting of Turkey's unlawful border
blockade, and a comprehensive discussion and negotiated resolution of
all outstanding matters based on an acceptance of history and the
commitment to a future guaranteed against it recurrence.  Nor should
the fact of dialogue, as facially laudable as it is, be pitched in an
insincere justification to deter third-party parliaments, and
particularly the US Congress, from adopting decisions or resolutions
that simply seek to reaffirm the historical record.  Such comportment,
far from the statesmanship many expect, would contradict the aim and
spirit of any rapprochement.

9.  The past as present: The current Armenian state covers a mere
fraction of the vast expanse of the great historical plateau upon
which the Armenians lived from the depths of BC until the surgical
disgorgement of homeland and humanity that was 1915.  Having managed
for seventy years as the smallest of the republics of the USSR, Soviet
Armenia was the sole remnant component of the patrimony in which the
Armenians were permitted by the Soviet-Turkish accords of 1921-- the
Armenian equivalents of Molotov-Ribbentrop-- to maintain a collective
existence under the Kremlin's jurisdiction.  Even such obviously
Armenian homesteads as Mountainous Karabagh and Nakhichevan were
severed by Bolshevik-Kemalist complicity and placed, in exercise of
Stalin's divide-and-conquer facility, under the suzerainty of Soviet
Azerbaijan.  Accordingly, as improbable as it seems in view of its
ethnic kinship with Azerbaijan, modern-day Turkey also carries the
charge to discard outdated and pursue corrective policies in the
Caucasus.  This high duty applies not only to a qualitatively improved
and cleansed rapport with the Republic of Armenia, but also in respect
of new realities in the region.

10.  Mountainous Karabagh from sea to shining sea: Called Artsakh in
Armenian, this easternmost territory of the Armenian Plateau declared
its independence from Soviet Azerbaijan in 1991 in full compliance
with controlling Soviet legislation, customary international law, and
the Montevideo Convention.  Against the odds of a David-and-Goliath
struggle for liberty and identity, its people valiantly defended their
hearths and homes first against provocations and pogroms, and then in
the face of `Grad' rocket launchers, cluster and other indiscriminate
aerial bombings of civilian targets, and finally in response to an
all-out war of aggression that brought together as bedfellows the
Azerbaijani military, Turkish advisers and through them NATO-vintage
materiel, `mujaheddin' mercenaries, and some transitional rogue units
from the devolving Soviet army.

Almost miraculous in view of the tragedy of modern history, the
Armenians of Artsakh were able to successfully defend their homeland,
secure their frontiers from further attack, and ultimately resist the
temptation of an excessive counter-offensive, so signing a ceasefire
with Azerbaijan in May 1994.  Unlike Nakhichevan-- where no Armenians
remain today and where even the final vestiges of Armenian cultural
heritage have been defaced and destroyed, as recently as December
2005, by an official policy of the Azerbaijani state-- Mountainous
Karabagh held its own and most exceptionally surmounted the Stalinist
legacy of subjugation and colonization.  Turkey, as Azerbaijan's proxy
in the wider world and as an important political contributor, must
come to respect Karabagh's choice and include it in any platforms or
other initiatives brought to the regional table.  Of course, the
diplomatic agenda continues to comprise such issues as the return of
refugees to their places of origin, the opening of communications,
demilitarization and peacekeeping, territorial adjustments and
security guarantees, but none of these can or will happen unilaterally
or in one direction only.  Mutuality is key in every category, and the
final agreement of the parties, together with the ensuing supervisory
regime, must attach equally to all from the Caspian to the Black Sea.
When considering, for instance, the secured right of voluntary return
for refugees and their progeny, or else a reactivation of normal
transportation avenues, the scope of these provisions and the related
security protocols must embrace Azerbaijan, Mountainous Karabagh,
Armenia, and Turkey.  In this sense, a durable and equitable
resolution of the Azerbaijan-Karabagh standoff is substantively
derivative from the Turkish-Armenian relationship and the course of
its development.

On the road to inevitable self-discovery, Turkey, its future with
Armenia, and their immediate neighborhood have come to form one of the
planet's most sensitive and seismic tectonic plates.  Neo-imperial
interests and raw power in their pursuit can no longer control the
shift.  Integrity, equity, and a bit of humility might help to save
the day.  And our world.


--
Raffi K. Hovannisian was Armenia's first minister of foreign affairs
and currently represents the opposition Heritage party in the National
Assembly.

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