Sassounian: Are Armenia’s Policies Making Turkey Stronger?

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!

Harut Sassounian

Harut Sassounian

California Courier Editor
Harut Sassounian is the publisher of The California Courier, a weekly newspaper based in Glendale, Calif. He is the president of the Armenia Artsakh Fund, a non-profit organization that has donated to Armenia and Artsakh one billion dollars of humanitarian aid, mostly medicines, since 1989 (including its predecessor, the United Armenian Fund). He has been decorated by the presidents of Armenia and Artsakh and the heads of the Armenian Apostolic and Catholic churches. He is also the recipient of the Ellis Island Medal of Honor.


  1. Turkey has killed 1.5 million Armenians (including members of my own family), has uprooted the survivors, has dynamited priceless cultural monuments, and continues to wage a campaign of disinformation against Armenians. All true.
    Armenia is an isolated country whose land trade goes through a 10 km border with Iran and a somewhat larger border with Georgia. Trade with Iran has its drawbacks due to the position of Iran in the international community. Trade with Georgia is iffy and subject to ups and downs.
    Beggars cannot be choosers. As much as it galls me personally, Armenia has no choice but to develop relationships with Turkey to the degree that it is possible. This is a matter of survival. At the same time, it needs to develop its own internal resources, build up those sectors of the economy (such as IT) that do not depend on the movement of goods and materials. This will increase its bargaining position vis-a-vis Turkey and the rest of the international community.
    Of course, there are things that we can do to avoid strengthening Turkey’s bargaining position, such as refusing to carry Turkish products, refusing to buy Turkish products, going on vacation in countries other than Turkey, etc. These require leadership–leadership that is sorely lacking. When was the last time we had an education campaign on those issues? When was the last time our so-called National parties put their differences aside in favor of the common good? Bickering seems to be easier than compromise, cooperation, and true leadership. When *that* changes, that is when we will start to see real progress on the Armenian issue.

  2. very good article. the turkish criminals have not changed aiota armenia should should not in anyway cooperate with these barbarians.

  3. I have not killed anyone. Is it not time to make peace and to work together for a beter future? Hate will make you unhappy. Turky does not need Armenia but Armenia future prosperity is depending on Turkey. Just forget about the past and look into the future.

  4. The answer to the question is YES. At the same time, it is impossible not to go to Turkey. The error is fatal.

  5. Curious as to what fruits Turkey is enjoying from so called genocide??? Also what fruits Armenia would enjoy if Turkey acknowledges that it committed this supposed genocide?
    Also regarding the suggestion: “Armenia should not agree to the Turkish demand of forming a joint historical commission to review the facts of the Armenian Genocide, in order to avoid the questioning of the veracity of the genocide and not to harm the chances of its acknowledgment by third parties.”
    Since Armenia and Armenians market the idea of a one-sided genocide committed by Ottoman Empire/Turkey and so strongly believe that this indeed happened, wouldn’t it be so simple to prove that by providing historical facts in this joint historical commission??? Is there something to hide?

  6. I shall never set foot in Turkey, as a matter of principle. There should not be any compromise wiith turkey’s administration until they revert back to the treaty of Sevres, acknowledge the genocide. Normalizing relations with turkey, outside the prescribed parameters, is tantamount to a rape victim fraternising with the rapist. As for visiting turkey as a tourist, that is an unacceptable sacrilege on the part of armenians. Armenians do not need turkey. These turk race wiped out a five thousand year nation/people inside their homeland in a matter of 7 years. It was the first ,and only , successful; genocide in the XX century. Rather starve to death and die with our honor intact , than accept gracious blandishment from the turk administration. Do not buy any turkish products, none whatosoever.

  7. “Since Armenia and Armenians market the idea of a one-sided genocide committed by Ottoman Empire/Turkey and so strongly believe that this indeed happened, wouldn’t it be so simple to prove that by providing historical facts in this joint historical commission??? Is there something to hide?”
    One sided.? You forget the US Ambassador Henry Morgenthou was there during the mass killings and witnessed it all. All was detailed in OFFICIAL US ARCHIVAL MATERIAL , 40,000 pages to be exact, written in real time depicting the “systematic Armenian Race extermination”. As well as official archives of the Europeans, the Russians and including the Germans, your own ally during the MASS MURDERS. They don’t doubt it and neither do ALL THE GENOCIDE HISTORIANS AND THE 22 OTHER COUNTRIES THAT CALL IT THE ARMENIAN GENOCIDE. Hardly One sided.
    The idea that the Armenians are hiding some truth is not only and insult to all Armenians damaged worldwid but rather, borderlines on pure stupidity. In fact, Turkey is the backward, scholar stiffling country with laws criminalizing Turkish Scholars from discussing the truth of the Armenian Genocide. It is you who have much to hide. Contary to your beliefs, you are not the master race but a country founded upon the  murder and theft of other races including the Greeks, Assyrians Armenians and Kurds. Turkey is a criminal state and should be regarded as such.

  8. I am a Turk an love all Armenians. That is because I love all of GOD’s creation. After all we are all children of Adam. According to Islam, Christianity and Judaisim we are all brothers. GOD want us to live in peace and to prosper.

    Secondly – it’s true that minorities were forced to leave their soils and even got killed in great numbers during the last years of 19th. century and first 20 years of the 20th. century. But we must place these facts into the big picture of that time and realize that nation state transformation was in place anywhere in the region. Turks wanted their own nation state and unfortunetely they acted towards it in a not a holy way. But they were not alone. Bulgarians, Greeks, Serbians, Macedonians did it. And Armenians tried to do it. And none of these nations have sent Turks who had been living on the same territory for centuries with flowers and waved good bye.

    However, we must not hate and harm each other for errors comitted by people who are past long time ago. Let the LORD judge over them. We must become friends, we are neighbours after all. That is in Armenian interest.

  9. Oh pleaaaase how many Armeniens are there that could afford to travel to Turkey anyway? And please do stay away from us and heed Aravod’s advice to “Rather starve to death and die”. ; )

  10. Time to bring someone back down to earth. Kadir — it ain’t Monaco. Though being harassed by beggars and vendors near Ephesus does remind one of Yerevan.

  11. Armenians threatening not to buy Turkish products is no different than a 5 year old kid threatening to kick me in the leg.

  12. Mr John the to be wanna be scalor.
    you have no idea and Turkey is a criminal state, so what are you telling us here all the states in exisstence today are criminal states, so we send everyone back to where they belong, ok lets start with your country first, USA, remember what you have done to Indians here, and the british from all over the world and all the other nations ,
    Ottoman empire was the most tolorent empire in the Wolrd and when it was disolved everyone was stayed as suck , jews armenias chritians everyone
    after 10 generation of ottoman rule no one wa changed that is something

  13. To Mark, (or what ever your real name  is,) the wanna be human being, you live in fantasy land. Why does turkey need laws muzzeling scholars? Why can’t a supposed ‘tolerant, democratic modern country’ openly talk of the past in purely honest open debate?? Your people are fearful of the truth.  After all, how can the “master race” apologise or give anything back? Turks have given nothing in their history, only stolen.
    Great,  everyones done it.  That’s the best excuse the Turks have? I don’t deny  man’s inhumanity to man however today tukey, the incarnation of the genocidal ottoman regime, STILL DENIES THE FACTS OF THE ARMENIAN GENOCIDE. Tolerant? No, no, please ask any one minority living under turkish rule weather it was good times or bad times? Everone will tell you it was the worst in their history. Very Nazi like. You fool no one.
    As far as boycotting goods, who needs tukish made garbage anyway? The best thing to do is TO STOP THE US TAX PAYER FUNDS THAT GO TO THAT COUNTRY! We pay billions of dollars for nothing. That needs to end.

  14. Why Armenia should supply electrisity or opening borders to cheap quality turkish products of that starving population(Kars and around)of Occupied Armenian lands.On the contrary Armenians put three conditions to “improvement” of Armenian-turkish relations.First recognising the genocide of 1915,second-financial compansations,estimated to 40 billions dollars by a Canadian historian,third returning all occupied Armenian lands after the treaty of Sevres,with some modifications.After that we can only think about normalizations of relations.

  15. As long as the criminals remain unpunished, loose and ignorant, what will keep them to do the same crime again and again, those Turks who refuse about their predecessors crime, they are participators in it also, how it is, if somebody takes your wealth, and belonging, and kills the majority (80 out of 86, if you like) of your family, and then drives you marching, into  sun burning Syrian deserts, to starve you, and then turn and ask you to forget about it, and lets be a good friends. Very logical isn’t it! some Turks say yes it is, we didn’t do it. I say shame on you, for  not asking  forgiveness, the minimum requirement, befor calling us names. John,Aravod and Vardan are good people, we need more of them.Gedtse Dashnagtsoutyoun.            

  16. It is a fact that the armenians  had their golden years under Ottoman Empire and they also managed to maintain their religion, culture, and traditions. No other empire allowed that.
    As far as you stopping the US Taxpayer Fund, by all means go ahead since it has nothing to do with Turkey. Turkey had received no financial help from the US in over two decades. So far the US did nothing but cost billions in trade to Turkey with its neighbors.
    And to those Turks trying to befriend armenians, it is a useless process. They are all injected with hatred the day they are born. The best thing to do is to fight hatred with hatred and inject your people against armenians as well. Make them aware of this armenian hatred towards them. Talk about it and wake up your people since the most are NOT aware of this insignificant issue.

  17. No, Jason, that is not a fact — it is highly debatable. But you seem to like running your mouth on subjects you might have read about once in Commentary or on some think-tank website, so we’ll indulge you.

  18. Easy on the caps John. Since it is all documented, what’s wrong with working together to bring out those documents and teach us ignorant Turks about the past??? It seems that the argument is not that Turkey should recognize the mass murder but it must give land and money to armenians to make you forget it all or make it all better. Go figure…
    You do all recognize that it was the Ottoman Empire that was the ruler in 1915 and the Republic of Turkey was formed in 1923. You are saying that all of Ottoman Empire, although included tens of different ethnicity of people, are all Turks and that Turkey is just a mere extension of the Ottoman Empire? Turkey fought hard to kick out those invaders and mass murderers (greeks, englishmen, italians, etc.) to free the land and form our own independent country.  To call now all Turks criminals and rapists is one of the biggest ignorance or misinformation.
    There is such hatred in all of these writings that I doubt we will reconcile any of our issues any time soon.

  19. I wish you would post all the submitted comments…if there is something wrong with or how I stated my comments I will welcome feedback, otherwise I strongly believe in my submitted views that criticized Adem Turk and Kadir Bey and I think they deserve such a reaction…

  20. You all armenian haters, you form your unity by hating Turks, just 54 years ago Europe was at eachothers throuth and they killed 40 million people between them 20 millon of which was Russian, but today they improve their economy and open their borders, but no one like you armenians hormor the hate as any other race , you are full of hate and resentment, and you sufficate in your own hate and your country is starving to death, you need to move on,and build bettr future for your children ,only one thing l agree with harant dink, this hate is a poison in your blood, if you keep on passing this hate to your children they will face th same distruction as your grand parents and ofcourse will kill many Turks too in process,, like l said this site won’t publish my latters only yours, and some balance site, l am so imressed,

  21. To read some of these it simply proves you cannot trust a Turk, regretably and I hate to write that.
    But, in response to Adem Turk, Kadir Bey and Mark on Aug. 10, if someone killed your mother, father, spouse or child among other heinous atrocities too many to point out here, HOW FORGIVING WOULD YOU BE AND HOW WILLING WOULD YOU BE TO FORGET YOUR FAMILY’S MURDER AND PUT THINGS IN THE PAST? Think hard about that. Adem Turk’s comment ‘I am a Turk an love all Armenians’ is unbelievale and, in my opinion, the same two-faced rational that duped the Armenians in 1915 and is not to be trusted.
    I appreciate the asssorted pro-Turkish individuals who apparently monitor this site and offer their thoughts that we might be aware of them. That is not meant to be offensive but one can never tell, their interest/effort might initiate serious dialogue one day.

  22. More in response to Adem Turk, Kadir Bey and Mark.

    Bishop Krikoris Balakian, who was among those rounded up by the Turkish government on April 24, 1915, narrated the following bone-chilling episode about aanother’s (Agnouni) arrest in his memoir titled Hay Koghkota (Armenian Golgotha). When Turkish police officers came to his house to arrest him, Agnouni asked in a state of shock: “Does Talat know about this?” Agnouni was completely dumb-founded when the officers showed him Talat’s signature on his arrest warrant. He asked: “I just had lunch with Talat—how come he did not say anything to me?”

    Agnouni was stunned by his arrest because he could not believe that Talat would betray him after he had saved his life during the Young Turk revolution of 1908, by hiding him in his own home at the risk of his own life. According to Balakian, when Agnouni finally realized that he was being led to his death, he told his fellow prisoners: “I don’t regret dying, since I knew that death was inevitable. My only regret is that we were deceived by these Turkish villains.” Balakian expressed his deep regret that the Armenians who had put their trust in Turks realized their mistake too late–when they were on their way to their deaths!
    Now would you trust anyone who did this sort of thing?

  23. You all talk about the so called genocide here and how Turks did this and that, did you ever wonder why all of a sudden after living side by side with Armenians for hundred of years Turks deprted them and many died during the deportation, and l assume some killed ,but many armenians remained in Turkey WHY? because when all able man returned from the war they found their families are massacared by Armenians rebels, now what whould you do if you come to your home and find your family killed, l tell you what they did the ones did the killing was deported and some was killed for a revenge, armenians opend an other front for the Turks to fight worst kind with in and you all sided with Russians for promise of a land, lets face it you made the biggest mistake and paid dearly and l also know you send man into Greek army to fight the Turks l call that a trader, and Turks allowed armeniasn to take possitions of highest levels of the Ottoman empire, and allowed the armenians keep their culture and religion, after 700 years, and come and see the hate of the armenians in USA, l seen it and l do not like it a bit, as long as you go on like this there will be no peace and we do not want it.

    can Israel have peace with palestenians NO neither can we with you, walls are drawn and should remain as such
    Thank you

  24. I am not Turkish or Armenian, but I have spent a lot of time in Turkey and done a great deal of research on the history of the Ottoman Empire and the creation of the Turkish Republic. The new Turkish state was created by the Young Turks, and these were the people dictating the methods used against the Armenians, yes, it was clearly genocide. To claim otherwise is simply a joke. There are so many historical sources open to anyone who wants to know. There is no need to go to a special archive. There is documentation and eyewitness accounts from many outside observers, as well as from Turkish and Armenian sources. Some of the best sources are from the Germans who actually helped facilitate the genocide, (at best they turned their heads away). There is an incredible wealth of American sources, eyewitness accounts, journals and diary’s.  If a few Turks spent a bit more time reading and a bit less time spewing nonsense on the internet, (really I find some of  you guys if not sad, then just laughable), you might at least feel better about yourselves. Being an American, I am able to talk about the history of my own country, its genocide of the native Americans, its use of slavery– none of this is a personal insult to me, it is simply historical fact. I don’t understand why Turkish people are so desperate to cling to this crazy fake history that casts themselves on the one hand as the greatest victims of “outside instigators” and on the other hand as great and powerful warriors.
    One reason it is important for Turkey to recognize and come to terms with its own history is that this will help it to deal with its current situation- the ongoing cultural and physical genocide being enacted against the Kurds. Yes, things are opening up and improving, slightly, but looking at history and seeing how ignorant and narrow the mindset is of most Turkish people, its difficult to be hopeful. I suppose people can’t be blamed. The brainwashing starts as soon as school begins with slogans like “one turk is worth the world” etc.  The system is very powerful there- it is a complete fear culture. There is no freedom of the press, and having a real independent thought can lead to prison so easily there. Last time I was in Turkey a turkish policeman became angry at me for speaking Turkish. “Why do you want to learn Turkish!” he screamed. And I replied that I thought the literature, music, and history was beautiful and tragic and I wanted to understand it. But what kind of country is this where people are angry at you for speaking their language? Turkish people should really ask themselves some hard questions. Take a break from the internet, and educate themselves.
    Initially the genocide was a disaster for the remaining people of Anatolia as well because the destruction of  the Armenian community, (with its advanced farming and craftsmen) destroyed the production of food and valuables, later there were simply no skilled laborers, to create a class which replaced the massacred people took years. But of course the Turks and Kurds did benefit from seizing the lands and livestock of the Armenians.

  25. Turkey does not want to acknowledge any genocide because in doing so, they may have to rescind some of their land. The Wilson Doctrine clearly established Armenian/Turkish boundaries, and Turkey essentially landlocked Armenia by ignoring it and establishing their own revision of these boundaries.

    As for Kurdistan, it is one of the most oil-rich areas of the Middle East, and any country who occupies it would benefit from its riches.

    America and Israel are incredibly foolish to believe that Turkey is their only ally in the Muslim world. If they think Pakistani and Saudi jihad is extreme, wait until Turkey revolts against their secular government. Then we’ll see how friendly they are!

  26. for Mark and any others who subscribe to his skewed rational: can Israel have peace with palestenians NO neither can we with you, walls are drawn and should remain as such…

    you’ve got it right on the mark, I hate to say it, it’s a Middle Eastern sensibility (that I believe others do not understand). The Turks killed 82% of the then Armenian population and it was simple pure hate. You read and believe what you want and have a hard time dealing with the truth and I’m not going to go into that here. There is a disdain/hate by Turks towards Armenians that is evident today in many of their and their allies anti-Armenian actions that are not to be trusted. Give me back the dead of my family that the Turks killed (I never knew grandparents) and I’ll
    we can talk peacefully although we really should but you’re going to have to deal with a truth you cannot admit to.

  27. Jason Kopeczki wrote: //It is a fact that the armenians  had their golden years under Ottoman Empire and they also managed to maintain their religion, culture, and traditions. No other empire allowed that.//
    Laughable. “Golden years” under occupation and discrimination? Really? And please tell me more about how for example the British Empire was suppressing religions, culture or traditions of their colonies. Not sure if this is mere ignorance or something more in it.

  28. Jason Kopeczki wrote on August 9th, 2009:

    Turkey had received no financial help from the US in over two decades.
    SIR: TURKEY IS THE THIRD LARGEST RECIPIENT OF UNITED STATES FOREIGN AID DOLLARS AFTER EGYPT AND ISRAEL…you’re blowing smoke and you think it’s the other guy who is the problem…you’ve got you head in the ground!

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