When it comes to making grand statements, leave it to the Turkish government.
According to a report by the newspaper Sabah, Ankara announced this week that it will be taking part in April 24th commemorations this year in an effort to overcome psychological barriers between Armenia and Turkey, and engage in dialogue with the Armenian Diaspora.
If you are asking why a government that spends millions of dollars and goes out on a limb in denying the Armenian Genocide would take part in events commemorating it, look at the calendar.
It’s that time of the year again.
As April 24th approaches, Ankara is anxious to guarantee that President Obama, in his annual “Armenian Remembrance Day” statement, will not refer to the destruction of the Armenians in Ottoman Turkey in 1915 as “genocide.”
Washington, in turn, would like to present excuses that justify Obama’s decision to break his campaign promise to properly recognize the genocide.
During the past two years, Obama justified his decision by referring to “the efforts by Turkey and Armenia to normalize their bilateral relations.” Now that the Turkey-Armenia “normalization” process has been stalled—by the Turkish Grand National Assembly’s failure to ratify the Turkish-Armenian protocols—Washington needs a fresh excuse.
And Ankara feels the pressure to provide one.
Hence the Turkish government’s announcement, which promises to take up a line or two in the “I salute,” “I commend,” and “I support” section of Obama’s Remembrance Day statement.
On the other hand, the Turkish government will not have sacrificed much. An official’s visit to the Armenian Genocide Memorial in Yerevan, for example, does not mean the visitor’s country acknowledges the Armenian Genocide. The U.S. ambassador to Armenia and even U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton herself have visited the site, although the U.S. maintains a policy of not reaffirming the genocide.
I doubt, however, that the Turkish government will send officials to lay wreaths at Armenian Genocide memorials. The ruling Justice and Development (AK) Party is locked in a struggle for votes, and the pressure from its rank and file and competing parties might force it to abandon the plan.
Instead of insulting the memory of genocide survivors and selling it to the world as progress, the Turkish government can perhaps begin with removing genocide denial material from its websites. The Turkish Foreign Ministry’s page, for example, features a “Q&A” section denying the genocide and stressing that “Turkey is the only country, where the events of 1915 can be discussed in a free manner.” (I kid you not.)
Ankara’s annual “let’s pretend to be busy doing something constructive” festival is in full swing already. Stay tuned!