On June 17, during testimony before the Europe Subcommittee of the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee, Assistant Secretary of State Phil Gordon said that the Obama Administration supports the establishment of an Armenia-Turkey historical commission. He said, “the two countries have agreed on a framework for normalizing their relations that would include opening the border, which has been closed for far too long, which would establish diplomatic relations and would provide commissions in key areas including history, and we encourage that process and we support it.”
This is not news, of course, for those following reports from Turkish newspapers over the past few months. If anything, it is a rather carefully worded statement in which the idea of a historical commission is bundled up with other commissions “in key areas.”
Let’s call a spade a spade.
Armenia has so far remained silent over the content of the so-called “road map” agreement of April 22, while the Turkish press has leaked some of the main points of that agreement, like the establishment of a historians’ commission and the recognition of the Kars Treaty (an acknowledgment of Turkey’s borders). Naturally, Turkey—having emerged victorious from these negotiations—sees the benefit of leaking this information to its public and the world. The Armenian government, on the other hand, continues to argue that the secrecy of these negotiations is crucial, and hence does not comment. This is yet another example of the double standards that govern the asymmetric relations between Turkey and Armenia.
The establishment of a historical commission would deal a deadly blow to the efforts of achieving recognition of the Armenian Genocide. It would have long-term consequences—unlike the announcement of the road map agreement that effectively killed genocide recognition efforts in the short run. In return, nothing can be gained from such a commission. Those who believe Turkey will acknowledge the Armenian Genocide through the examination of history by this commission are delusional at best. No government in Turkey would take such a step in the foreseeable future. If it did, it wouldn’t be around the next day.
Expressing faith in the usefulness of a historians’ commission is either complete ignorance of the forces that shape Turkey’s policies, or, worse, a shameless effort to mislead the Armenian public in Armenia and the diaspora.