This April, Turkey’s leaders succeeded in preventing President Barack Obama from honoring his promise to recognize the Armenian Genocide on the false premise that Ankara would normalize its relations with Armenia, but only if the U.S. president broke this high-profile human rights pledge.
A classic example of bait and switch.
First the bait: In the weeks leading up to April 24, Turkey lured the Obama Administration with the prospect of a win-win Armenia-Turkey “road map” that would, without preconditions, lead quickly to the opening of the last closed border in Europe. Ankara’s price tag for ending its illegal blockade: the president’s refusal to recognize the Armenian Genocide.
Once the hook was set, Turkey kept the U.S. government on the line long enough to accomplish its main aim of securing the complicity of yet another U.S. administration in their longstanding campaign of genocide denial.
The State Department publicly welcomed Turkey’s stated willingness to normalize its bilateral relations with Armenia without preconditions and within a reasonable timeframe.
On April 24, as has been widely reported, the president broke his pledge.
Then came the switch: Within hours after April 24, Turkey, having dodged the most serious threat it had faced of U.S. recognition in years, moved the goalposts down the field, claiming that the normalization of ties with Armenia, which it once held out as being only days away, now required Azerbaijan’s approval and the resolution of the longstanding Nagorno-Karabagh conflict.
Today, more than a month and a half after April 24, it’s painfully clear that Turkey’s preconditions are just a pretext for maintaining the status quo, and equally obvious that Ankara has no intention of honoring its commitments, now or in the near future.
The facts bear this out, at the cost, sadly, of U.S. credibility:
Despite the repeatedly stated U.S. position of no preconditions, Ankara has, very publicly, set preconditions—namely a third country’s approval and the settlement of a longstanding regional conflict between Azerbaijan and Karabagh.
Despite the U.S. position that Turkey should move within a reasonable timeframe to normalize relations and lifts its blockade of Armenia, Ankara has yet to take even a single meaningful step in this direction.
Let’s look at the balance sheet.
Turkey’s leaders, through clever manipulations of U.S. expectations, accomplished their primary goal of blocking American recognition of the Armenian Genocide, and, in the process, fostered the artificial appearance of flexibility without, in reality, having made any concessions at all.
It’s a win as well for Turkey’s Washington, D.C.-based lobbyists, who make millions by delaying, derailing, and defeating U.S. recognition of the Armenian Genocide.
For the United States
President Obama, at the expense of his reputation and America’s moral standing, broke his crystal-clear public pledge to recognize the Armenian Genocide.
The State Department, at the cost of American diplomatic credibility, supported Armenia-Turkey normalization without preconditions and within a reasonable time frame, only to have Turkey set preconditions and entirely ignore the urgent need for timely action.
Armenia’s leaders banked on Turkey’s sincerity in seeking normalized ties and the lifting of Ankara’s blockade, only to have the diplomatic tables turned by Ankara against Armenian Genocide recognition efforts and the prospect of a durable resolution of the Karabagh conflict.
For Armenian Americans
Armenian Americans worked hard as citizens to help elect Barack Obama based, in large part, on his clearly stated and oft-repeated pledge to recognize the Armenian Genocide, only to have him, under pressure from a foreign government, break this solemn pledge as president.
This April, Turkey clearly succeeded in manipulating U.S. policy on the Armenian Genocide. Its leaders have made no secret of the success of their bait and switch diplomacy, even boasting to their electorate about having used this clever tactic to once again block American recognition.
Turkey has made its choice; now as Americans we must make ours.
Get America back on the right side of this human rights issue. Join with the ANCA in urging President Obama to restore American credibility as the leader of the genocide-prevention movement by:
1) Immediately honoring his solemn pledge to recognize the Armenian Genocide, and
2) Actively supporting legislation before Congress to properly condemn and commemorate this crime against humanity.