Sassounian: ‘Oh, what a tangled web we weave, When first we practice to deceive’

The title of this article, taken from Walter Scott’s epic poem “the Marmion,” aptly describes the web of deceit weaved by Turkey’s leaders in seeking to create the false impression of wanting to normalize relations with Armenia.

Under the guise of opening the border and establishing diplomatic relations with Armenia, Turkish officials actually intended to: 1) extract concessions from Armenia—returning Karabagh (Artsakh) to Azerbaijan, forming a historical commission to review the facts of the genocide, and blocking territorial demands from Turkey; 2) prevent the acknowledgment of the Armenian Genocide by third countries, particularly the United States; and 3) generate a positive image in order to facilitate Turkey’s entry into the European Union.

If Turkey was sincere in its expressed desire to open the border with Armenia, it could have done so just as easily and quickly as it did when it closed it in 1993. There was no need for lengthy negotiations, convoluted protocols, and parliamentary ratification. Furthermore, rather than demanding concessions, Turks should have offered inducements to Armenia for agreeing to open the border, because with closed borders, Turkey cannot join the EU.

Ever since April 22, 2009, when the first concrete step was taken by the foreign ministers of Armenia and Turkey by issuing a roadmap for normalizing their relations, Turkish leaders continued to state that they wouldn’t open the border with Armenia without first resolving the Artsakh conflict. Even after signing the protocols on Oct. 10, 2009 and submitting them to parliament 11 days later, the Turkish government still insisted that the border would remain closed until Artsakh was returned to Azerbaijan.

Since none of the major powers supported the precondition on Artsakh, Turkey’s leaders used the Jan. 12, 2010 verdict of Armenia’s Constitutional Court as a new excuse for not ratifying the protocols in the last four months. Even though the court ruled that the obligations stipulated by the protocols complied with the constitution, the Ankara leadership expressed dissatisfaction in order to cover up its intent not to ratify the protocols. Turkey demanded that the court “correct” its decision, just because it had blocked the unwarranted interpretations and preconditions of the Turkish side.

Unable to convince Armenia to meet their demands, Turkish officials approached Russia, the United States, and Switzerland (the mediator on the protocols) to apply pressure on Armenia “to correct” the Constitutional Court’s decision. Once again, the Turks were rebuffed.

Last week, Turkey stumbled on a new excuse not to ratify the protocols—the announcement by Cong. Howard Berman (D-Calif.), the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, that his panel would take up the Armenian Genocide Resolution on March 4.

Even though the genocide resolution is unrelated to the protocols, a few days before Berman’s announcement, Turkey’s new ambassador to Washington, Namik Tan, warned the U.S. Congress against such a move and boldly predicted that such a resolution would not come up for a vote “this year or anytime in the future.” Tan’s warning clearly exposed Turkey’s hidden agenda to bury the acknowledgment of the Armenian Genocide at every opportunity.

Now that the genocide resolution is scheduled for a vote, what will the Turks do? They are caught in their own web of deceit. If they rush to ratify the protocols in order to prevent the adoption of the resolution, they will antagonize their Azeri ally and create internal political turmoil. On the other hand, if Turkey does not ratify the protocols very soon, there is a high probability that the genocide resolution may receive congressional approval this year.

Meanwhile, Washington is losing patience with Turkey’s repeated excuses for dragging its feet on the protocols. In retaliation, the Obama Administration could use the genocide resolution as a stick to prod Turkey into ratifying the protocols. Moreover, Turkey cannot count on much political support from Israel or American-Jewish organizations in order to block the genocide resolution, due to the incessant insults hurled by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan at Israeli leaders over the past year.

By refusing to ratify the protocols, Turkey has taken away from the Obama Administration its excuse for not acknowledging the Armenian Genocide. Despite his repeated campaign promises, Obama refrained from using the term “Armenian Genocide” in his April 24, 2009 statement. He unwisely adopted the duplicitous Turkish line that third countries should not acknowledge the Armenian Genocide while Armenia and Turkey were trying to normalize their relations.

It is noteworthy that when Philip Gordon, the assistant secretary of state, was asked last week to comment on the likely impact of the Armenian Genocide Resolution on the protocols, he insisted that they be ratified without preconditions. Significantly, he did not use the occasion to express any opposition to the resolution.

Any attempt by the administration to block the congressional resolution would be highly embarrassing for Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, since all three as Senators and presidential candidates issued strong statements in support of acknowledging the Armenian Genocide.

Since Obama Administration officials have repeatedly stated that the protocols have no preconditions, there should be no reason for them to object to the adoption of the genocide resolution.

It should be stated that under normal circumstances, there would be no need for further action by the president or Congress on recognition of the Armenian Genocide, which is already an acknowledged fact. In 1975 and 1984, the U.S. House of Representatives adopted resolutions recognizing the genocide and President Ronald Reagan acknowledged it in his Presidential Proclamation of 1981. However, in view of Turkey’s devious designs to roll back the international recognition of the Armenian Genocide, it is imperative that the United States government reaffirm its acknowledgment. This would also be an appropriate response to the deceptive Turkish tactics of using the protocols to extract concessions, under the false pretense of opening the border with Armenia.


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 $917 million 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. Hmm…so I guess the Protocols are done with?  Phew, that was a close one!
    What now?  Do things go back to normal?

  2. You are amazing – you are very clear – to the point – logical – why can’t the others accept you analysis.  Keep it up – it is a pleasure to read your words.

  3. The Turks need the border open with Armenia more than Armenia needs it. Armenia has open borders with Iran and Georgia. Iran needs a trading partner like Armenia to sells its goods and services. Iran is running out of uranium as well. Armenia has uranium. For national security reasons of course, the US must recognize the Armenian genocide (even though it has done so time and time again by the United States), Turkey must give back Western Armenia, pay repirations, and pay a percentage of the oil pipeline revenues etc to the diasporan Armenians.

    Turkey’s refusal to open up the border shows how much it is interested in entering the EU. The message the US has recieved has been loud and clear.

  4. No oral statement will override the text of protocols. The all preconditions that have been pointed out by Armenians are deliberatly and carefully have been approved by the Obaoma Administration and whatever Turkey is arguing has been approved by Washington. The article correctly points out Turky’s short term goal. However, the longterm goal of Turkey is to incorporate Armenia within its territory.
    The first step is ratifying these protocols which they will deminish the Armenianism so that there will not be any Armenian factor in the region.

  5. We all know how hard is Turkey trying to enter the European Union, we also know that member countries cannot I stress cannot have any closed borders. So why then is Armenia rushing to have these borders opened knowing well that Turkey has to open it before it makes its greatest push for entry?

  6. Sassounian Soulful article and Walter Scott poem (1771-1832)*
    Stimulated me to write, Stanzas from our never-ending pain.
    Walter Scott’s Poem* ‘Foldden Battle’
    and Armenian Genocide
    If Walter Scott did not forget the Foldden Battle (1513)
    And he wrote his major work ‘Marmion’(1808)—
    Which past more than three-hundred years on that canning event.
    In Scotland: in his grand-grand-grand father’s land.
    Where he was unbirthed yet.
    It seems he heard battle stories in his mother’s womb!
    How can Armenians’ forget their genocide (1915-1923)?
    Where the clever genes of Armenians savagely smashed.
    Now what left, are sample of their populace genes.
    In spite of all slaughtered brains**,
    They continue giving to the world
    Endless inventions and arts.
    “How an ancient race can forget their crushed skulls
    still in Anatolian land weeplessly yells.”
    How humanity can accept such unfair tragedies,
    Where no one can sense smashed human dendrites.
    Even Arab Bedouins’ offspring
    Know all the stories and some remember
    Their beautiful dedicated Armenian grandmothers faces
    With their mental and physical scars of Turkish scimitars.
    While so called Christian civilized MP’s
    and congressional representatives
    on innocent Armenians’ crushed skulls politically dance,
    enjoying their drink and dine.
    Attending ceremonies, shaping their wrinkled faces with
    expensive colorful surgical make-ups,
    I can see, all will vanish if they remain ignoring every human right.
    February 11, 2010
    *Walter Scott’s Stanza, ‘Oh, what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive’
    Now I can understand why Scottish Parliament recognized Armenian genocide and English Parliament not yet!!!
    ** It is evident that 75% of Armenian in their Anatolia (Armenian land) vanished.
         However, their ruined churches are still there without Church bells.

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