The Armenian Foreign Ministry, in all likelihood, has a comprehensive strategic plan regarding Armenia’s relations with its immediate neighbors (Azerbaijan, Georgia, Iran, Turkey), with major powers near and far (China, France, Great Britain, Russia, United States), and with other key states around the world.
At the most basic level, Armenia’s leaders are expected to maximize their country’s national interests and counter all anti-Armenian efforts. Based on this simple criterion, I would like to make an assessment of several critical issues related to Turkey, Armenia’s most problematic neighbor.
Turkey has not only committed genocide against the Armenian nation and continues to enjoy the fruits of that crime, but it also spends millions of dollars every year to deny the facts of history and defame the Armenian people.
Ever since its inception, the Turkish Republic has consistently pursued the anti-Armenian policies of its Ottoman predecessors. Turkey has blockaded Armenia since 1993—an act of war—in order to force it to make territorial concessions on Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabagh). Shortly after Armenia’s independence, Turkey, on at least one occasion, amassed troops on the border, threatening to attack Armenia. Moreover, Turkey has trained and armed Azerbaijan’s military to enable it to invade Artsakh and exterminate its ethnic Armenian population.
Turkey also carries out anti-Armenian activities through various diplomatic channels. Turkish delegates regularly join their Azeri colleagues in casting votes against Armenia and Artsakh in the Council of Europe, the United Nations, and the Conference of Islamic States.
Finally, Turkey continues to hold hostage its Armenian population, depriving it of the most basic cultural, educational, and religious rights.
Under these circumstances, it is incumbent upon Armenian officials to carefully weigh whether the decisions they take regarding Turkey inadvertently contribute to their hostile neighbor’s political and economic strength.
Here are a few examples of such decisions:
Armenia should not accept any preconditions for negotiations with Turkey on the opening of the border and should not have agreed to make a joint announcement on the eve of April 24, which helped boost Turkey’s prestige and undermined efforts to acknowledge the Armenian Genocide by the United States and others.
Armenia should not recognize Turkey’s present boundaries and should reject treaties signed by Soviet Armenia, in order not to preclude future Armenian territorial claims.
Armenia should not agree to the Turkish demand of forming a joint historical commission to review the facts of the genocide, in order to avoid questioning the veracity of the genocide and harming its acknowledgment by third parties.
Armenia should not allow Turkey to stick its nose in the Armenia-Azerbaijan negotiations over Artsakh, in order not to help boost Turkey’s image as a credible mediator in Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Lebanon, Pakistan, and Syria.
Armenia’s president should not attend the Oct. 14 soccer match in Turkey unless Turkish leaders first abide by their written agreement to open the border. Armenian officials should not help give credence to false Turkish claims that it is engaged in serious negotiations with Armenia.
Armenia’s leaders should not support Turkey’s efforts to join the European Union in order not to increase the Turks’ political and economic strength. Given its huge population in comparison with most other EU countries, Turkey would be entitled to a large number of votes in the European Parliament, enabling it to pass anti-Armenian resolutions.
Last fall, when Turkey was desperately seeking votes to join the UN Security Council, Armenia and Armenians worldwide made almost no attempts to prevent its gaining such a critical seat for the first time in almost half a century. Turkey can now use that prestigious position to pass resolutions in the UN against Armenia and Artsakh.
In 2006, in the aftermath of Israel’s attack on Lebanon, Armenia and Armenians did not prevent Turkey from contributing peacekeeping troops to UNIFIL (United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon). This made possible the stationing of the Turkish military for the first time since the collapse of the Ottoman Empire in an Arab country that hosts the largest Armenian community in the Middle East.
Finally, Armenians should boycott Turkish products and should not go on vacation to Turkey in order not to contribute to the economy of a hostile state. Prime Minister Tigran Sargsyan should be commended for ordering Armenian government officials not to spend their vacation in Turkey and for encouraging local travel agencies to prepare tour packages at competitive rates for Armenians to vacation in Artsakh.
There already exists an overwhelming imbalance between the political, economic, and military strengths of Armenia and Turkey. By carefully considering the impact of their every decision, Armenia’s leaders should narrow, rather than increase, that imbalance!