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Review & Outlook - 12/16/2009

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Armenian News Network / Groong
December 16, 2009

By Raffi K. Hovannisian


In Washington, Brussels, Moscow and elsewhere, Turkish President
Abdullah Gul, Prime Minister Erdogan, Foreign Minister Davutoglu and
others have long advocated combining onto one political agenda their
country's normalization of relations with Armenia and the resolution
of Mountainous Karabagh's conflict with Azerbaijan.

I agree.

Newly-independent Armenia's ostensibly mature policy--which I
supported as the nation's first foreign affairs minister--of seeking
establishment of diplomatic relations without the positing of any
preconditions can today, 18 years into the game, be pronounced dead on

Oddly but expectedly, it has been the senior government at Ankara
which, instead of finally recognizing the responsibility of its
Ottoman-Young Turk predecessors for the great genocide and national
dispossession of 1915 or at minimum employing the facility of an
unconditional official relationship to address and solve the
outstanding issues that resulted from it, has ab initio proffered a
variety of unilateral conditions. The staple prerequisites of a)
removing genocide and its affirmation from Armenia's international
vocabulary and b) validating the de facto Turkish-Armenian frontier
which had been imposed by Bolshevik-Kemalist fiat in 1921, have since
been supplemented by c) a Baku-centric regulation of Armenian-
Azerbaijani relations and of Mountainous Karabagh's legitimate quest
for liberty, post-Stalinist decolonization and sovereign statehood.

The bilateral power asymmetry of the past has been conjoined with a
contemporary asymmetry in diplomatic demeanor, which is underscored by
Turkey's continued bad-neighborly blockade. This makes it finally
impossible to bridge the Turkish-Armenian divide by old and outdated

Turkey is right on this score. And so, for the first time in all
history, bring it all out and onto the table and let's hammer out a
comprehensive blueprint that delivers us to a brave new future of
peace, prosperity and shared security for the parties and for the
broader region.

This daring paradigm, which will entail the constructive support of
the world of nations, must give solution and closure to a few pivotal
points on the agenda:

1. In order to realize its ambition of becoming an area leader of
democratic repute, Turkey must face the cardinal sin in its memory
closet, surmount decades of denialism and, in the prime but sadly
unique example of postwar Germany, chart its own dev yol to
recognition and remorse, redemption and restitution. These can
materialize by repealing racist laws; paying honest tribute and
bringing truth to education; conducting a complete inventory of, and
then restoring, the vast cultural heritage in present-day eastern
Turkey and celebrating its Armenian identity; launching and carrying
through a homecoming initiative to guarantee the right of voluntary
return to the Armenian heartland for the progeny of genocide survivors
and the dispossessed.

2. It is imperative to determine and delimit the boundaries between
the Republics of Turkey and Armenia: Are they the de jure borders as
defined and awarded under Woodrow Wilson's presidential seal in
November 1920, or the ones that obtained de facto as part of the
Russo-Turkish compact of 1921 which usurped the lion's share of the
ancestral Armenian patrimony? What is the legal status of the historic
homelands currently under Turkish occupation, and does Armenia have a
right to sovereign access to the sea? To these ends, and absent the
parties' diplomatic good-faith in answering these questions, likely
telling of their positions and preoccupations would be their
acceptance of the compulsory jurisdiction of the International Court
of Justice.

3. The same goes for Mountainous Karabagh and Armenian-Azerbaijani
relations. We live in a world in which the rule of interests often
trumps the rule of law, where most Western nations have overcome
standard fixations on the principle of territorial integrity to
recognize Kosovo, just as the Russian Federation and a couple of
others have done the same for Abkhazia. Under international law, the
Montevideo Convention and the Soviet legislation controlling at the
time of Karabagh's referendum on independence, the juridical
underpinnings of its sovereignty are as strong as, if not more solid
than, the aforementioned examples. Kosovo's `sui generis' argument
uses a fancy label that betrays a false distinction without a true
difference. All the countries that recognized either Kosovo or
Abkhazia, if the rule of laws and rights is important to them, must
move immediately to recognize the Republic of Mountainous Karabagh
within its constitutional borders. Armenia and Turkey should lead the

4. As for the polemical scoring point of `occupied' territories and
the return of refugees, the case is closed on these consequences of
Azerbaijan's failed war of aggression against Karabagh. And it will
remain closed until and unless a) Turkey releases from occupation the
Armenian provinces currently under its control and allows for the
descendants' exercise of the right of return to their national home;
and b) Azerbaijan lifts its occupation of the Armenian territories of
Shahumian, Getashen and Nakhichevan, pays for the brutal and
documented destruction in December 2005 of the Armenian cultural
wonder called Jugha, provides a right of return and compensation to
the 400,000 Armenian refugees from Mountainous Karabagh and
Azerbaijan, recognizes Karabagh and then enters into formal
negotiations with it to finalize issues of border adjustment and
delineation, trade and communications, peace and public safety.

These are but a few of the priority items that need be included in the
agenda of `linkage' that official Ankara has long promoted. If its
insistence is anything more than partisan puff or an escape hatch from
political accountability, then the time is ripe for laying everything
on the line, presenting in civil fashion the pre- and post-conditions
of choice, and deciding which matters can be tackled diplomatically
and which require recourse to the tribunals of law. This process
alone, without prejudice to its results, just might take the parties
and their partnership to the hope of unprecedented normalization and
the promise of a long-awaited reconciliation between their peoples.

For policymaker and pundit alike, the road to regional integration in
a new-age community of democratic values and global security, to the
Caucasus, Central Asia and Afghanistan, to energy sourcing and other
strategic priorities passes right through the long-irrelevant but
now-tectonic killing fields of old Armenia. If the future is meant to
count, no measure of NATO membership or geopolitical self-importance
or moderate-Islam grandstanding can prevent the ultimate harmony of
renaissance and realpolitik.

Raffi Hovannisian, a member of Parliament, is founding director of the
Armenian Center for National and International Studies.

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