Obama, Turkey and Armenia

“Well, my views are on the record and I have not changed those views,” President Obama told a joint news conference with Turkish President Abdullah Gul. “I want to focus not on my views right now, but on the views of the Turkish and Armenian people. If they can move forward and deal with a difficult and tragic history, then I think the entire world should encourage that.”

Obama made the same point when he addressed the Turkish parliament later in the day. “I know there are strong views in this chamber about the terrible events of 1915, and while there has been a good deal of commentary about my views, it is really about how the Turkish and Armenian people deal with the past,” he said. “And the best way forward for the Turkish and Armenian people is a process that works through the past in a way that is honest, open, and constructive.”

While unprecedented for a recent American president to go to Turkey and reaffirm his views on the Armenian Genocide—stopping short of using the “G” word—it is also important to hold the president to task and continue to urge him to honor his campaign promise of properly recognizing the Armenian Genocide.

The problematic parts of Obama’s debut in Turkey are:

In asking Turkey to deal with its history, he placed the same onus on Armenians—the acknowledged victims of the Genocide, which Turkey still continues to deny;

Encouraging Turkey to play a more central role in the resolution the Nagorno Karabagh conflict. It was Turkey that closed its borders with Armenia citing the Karabagh conflict and by doing so becoming a de-facto party to the conflict. Obama’s expectation that Turkey should play a pivotal role would hinder any progress made during the conflict resolution process.

At the end of the day, Obama’s message was that the normalization of Turkish-Armenian relations must move forward.

On that front, this so-called deal to open the borders has hit a couple of snags. 

Azeri President Ilham Aliyev announced that he would not go to Istanbul for the UN Summit of Civilizations in protest over Turkey’s efforts to open its border with Armenia. Despite phone calls from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Gul urging him to change his mind, Aliyev stuck to his guns and will not travel to Turkey.

On April 5, Armenia’s Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian made one of the more decisive statements on the border opening firmly saying that there should be no preconditions to the process.

This came in response to an announcement on April 3 by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan who said the without a Karabakh resolution there would be no border opening. This, coupled with the continued push by Turkey to establish a historical commission to address the Genocide issue prompted Nalbandian to assert: “It has been said many times and I wish to stress again that the establishment of Armenian-Turkish relations can not put into question the veracity of the Armenian Genocide.”

Were last week’s media reports touting an imminent deal on the border opening premature? It is clear that there are many fundamental problems in advancing Obama’s wish to further Turkish-Armenian dialogue.

In recent weeks, there has been significant discussion in Armenia about this matter, all of which have focused on the Turkish perspective. Not a day has gone by without an “expert” or “political scientist” in Armenia discussing this issue. But none of them has opined or presented a concrete perspective on how Armenia will benefit from this border opening scheme.

Agreements signed hastily to fulfill one or another party’s desires often lead to severe challenges in the future and can weigh down several generations in the process.

Armenia is surrounded by hostile countries—it always has been. In this effort to normalize relations, the Armenian government should be cognizant that making huge concessions will push Armenia into a corner and diminish any upper hand it may have in the region.


  1. Genocide Imbedded in My Genes

    Genocide imbedded in my genes,
    Impossible to remove by any means.
    Even after my body ends moldy decayed;
    By worms, mice, and cockroaches in raid.

    My genes will speak the genocide.
    Let the insects enjoy their meal,
    Let them be satisfied with flesh to real,
    Never want them to starve and sear.

    This is their right as well as their land;
    Hence, it is my right to speak and write.
    About us: our forgotten genocide,
    Not recognized yet by civilized lands!

  2. From My Eight Book of poetry
    E-mails: Beneath Blossoming Tree

    Dedicated to President
    Barrack Obama
    His talented team

    Have you dreamed sending
    Your president Obama
    One letter only?

    How he reached to his reality.
    Can another human achieve
    What He did?

    Did he dressed with new dermis?
    Reached by his talent
    Coned with

    He’s continuing his mission
    Organizing lectures to teach
    For those can’t

    What does it mean
    To sense soulfully
    With every

    Yours Faithfully
    Armenian Poet for Obama

  3. If the Ottoman Turks wanted to eradicate the Armenians, why’d they wait till 1915? Why didn’t they do it at the height of their power in the 16th and 17th centuries? Or why didn’t they do it systematically during their 600-year reign over three continents? It doesn’t make sense. In 1915, the Ottomans were fighting a war on several fronts, and facing treachery and treason from within their borders, and their people were starving, and they suddenly decide to carry out a holocaust on an ethnic group who had lived within their borders without a problem for 6 centuries?

    Firstly,the Ottoman turks ,as she describes, were at the height of their power THEN!!!
    But when weakened(being driven out of Eastern Europe,the Balkans)they thought to save whatever was left  of that  Empire was to concentrate their “rests” in Asia Minor-driving out even the Greek majority in Smyrna area and exchanged lands with latgter further West.Please spell out facts correctly.Furthermore,she must be incognizant of yet another people/country..in Western Europe that  was conquered and ruled(Spain) also for over 600 years by North African Khalifates..
    Then a spanish princess  united  their princes,got well armed and drove the conquerers out!!!
    Armenians never betrayed country of their ancestors Western Armenia´s  conquerers.They could not simply must up enough clout-since they were rendered totally unarmed -only a  here and there a few fedayin resistance groups,pooly armed,since they ahd to smuggle in from East  fdew weapons they could ,were not a match to the refurbished turkish armies-by ex-Armenian allies the Brits especially who handed  over  in Kars  all the cache of arms to the Mustafa Kemal .This is real history.
    Also ,we admit not all turks are guilty  of the attempted Genocide  on us,whichhas great Turkey in a spot  now.People such as you should help iron out differences  not throw more wood on the fire…
    Finally, I have been present at  recent Armenian Turkish conferences in Yerevan , when a dozen or so young turkish students fvrom universities  met  with ours.Few of them knew that the socalled  “mountain turks” so dubbed by the turkish authorites..finally were pressed to give  in and call them by their real  names..K U R D S …this bit of history is also very important,since they were,viz. kurds awarded  an Autonomy after WWI, but  the West  reneged  on their promises not pressuring R.of Turkey  to honour  the Treaty  of Sevres, both  for the Kurds  for an Autonomous Kurdistan and an Independent Armenia on its East and West  lands…
    This will  be stretched  out whether  you me or others like  it or not untill justicde  prevails .

  5. Ayse,
    You are completely wrong on several counts. Turks have been eradicating Christians from Anatolia from day one as saw fit. Forced conversions for entire valleys in the 16th, 17th 18th and 19th centuries. Moving Christian families around the empire to dilute non moslem enclaves, kidnapping Christian women every now and again which over time was very effective to changing the demographics and let us not forget the devshirme system of collecting Christian children. Then there are the massacres of Christians. From 1849 to 1923 5 million Christians, Yezedis and Alevis were murdered or forced to convert to Sunni islam at the point of a sword. The ottoman empire was an evil institution and really not much has changed with the mentality of “modern turks”.

  6. As I clicked  on Armenianweekly’s weekly post today,I was surprised  that except above post by Nacht und Nebel, Sylva’s beautifull poetry-that  tells  it all- plus Ayse’s  and mine,are all very old psts  going back to Arpil 2009 and August  2009.
    Strange  why  Armeian Weekly has deemed right to re-post  them,including  of  course  the main one by Khatchadourian  Re  President Obama’s  UNPRECEDENTED   first visit abroad  after  his election,that  of visit  to Republic  of Turkey.
    Perhaps it  has to do  with very recent  developments in this respect. Turkey’s adamant stance as to  the decision by the Constitutional court  of r.of Armenia,which  anyhow does imply and convey its conformity with the protocols to be sent to Parliament for ratification,albeit with some references  to sme reservations.
    Not  to be outdone,r.of Turkey -as  above  mentioned- has  shown its reservations ,once  more hinting through its foreign Ministre  tying up Nagornyi Karabagh conflict  resolution,as well as Armenian Genocde Acknowedgment   not to be referred  to …
    Latter,as Sylva-  above -mentions  so eloquently and justly  is a National Armenian Premise,if  you will ,that  CANNOT BE ERASED  FROM THE MINDS  OF THE HEIRS  OF THOSE  THAT  SURVIVED  IT.
    Hence,weekly’s re-insertion  of  above  posts, one  would think  is in support and as a reminder  to president  Obama  of what  the Armenians  demand  as  JUSTICE. Latter cannot be  denied,rather  if denied, it will not have a long duration.  Unjust ,untrue Denials  will eventually come to surface  and  be reckoned  with.
    To  surmise:- Collective  memory  is  very  hard  to eradicate, rather  impossible.Same as documented,registered facts in Governmental institutions,films  micro films etc.Turkey must  awaken to realites  and come to termsas  above  mentioned-the case  of the  KURDS  for 70  and odd  years  being dubbed as “Mountain turks”,now called  by their real  name. 
    The Powers  that are(not , to be)  today putting pressure   especially on Armenia/Armenians should  indeed review  their  so far unrelenting stance,siding  wth r.of Turkey and Azerbaijan-(their 2nd state,as they call it, or being unnecessarily SILENT  when  it comes  to Genocide Recognition and call THINGS  BY THEIR TRUE NAME AND present culprit  as  such. For  if  they continue  their said outwardly impartial position, they become  party  to r.of Turkey’s Denialist  Game  played  so far….

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