Sassounian: Roadmap to Nowhere or New Delay Tactic: Genocide Recognition in 2015?

Faced with deadlock in ratifying the Armenia-Turkey protocols, the major powers are desperately looking for a face-saving way out of the current dilemma. France, Russia, and the United States have invested far too much time and effort to walk away from the negotiated and signed but not ratified “deal of the century.”

At the time of writing this column, the president of Armenia and the prime minister of Turkey were summoned to Washington by President Obama for a last-ditch effort to rescue the protocols or, at a minimum, create an illusion of progress in the reconciliation process. The slightest gesture or even the promise of an improvement in Armenia-Turkey relations or the Artsakh (Karabagh) conflict would give Obama the required fig leaf to cover up his broken promise on the Armenian Genocide.

It will soon be clear if White House pressure on Armenia and Turkey will result in any positive movement, such as the limited opening of the Armenia-Turkey border, before ratifying the protocols. Azerbaijan’s president was deliberately left out of the Washington summit in order to prevent him from undermining U.S. mediating efforts. In the event of Turkish recalcitrance, Armenia’s president would have no choice but to withdraw his country’s signature from the protocols, blaming Turkey for putting preconditions and for demanding that Artsakh be handed to Azerbaijan.

In an attempt to break the deadlock, Thomas de Waal, a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, issued a “policy brief” on April 9, just before the start of the summit. The report, titled “Armenia and Turkey: Bridging the Gap,” suggests five “goodwill gestures” that Turkey needs to make in order to keep reconciliation with Armenia alive.

1. An opening of the Armenia-Turkey border for noncommercial travelers.

2. A limited opening of a zone next to the Armenia-Turkey border that contains the medieval Armenian city of Ani, now just inside Turkish territory. This would allow Armenian tourists to visit the ancient site.

3. A Turkish initiative to fully open and digitize the Ottoman archives containing the official Ottoman records of the events of 1915-21.

4. A Turkish government initiative to invite Diaspora Armenians to visit the ancient Armenian heritage sites of Anatolia.

5. The opening of a Turkish Airlines route between Istanbul and Yerevan.

In return, de Waal suggests that Armenia pledge “to end the isolation of Nakhichevan once the Turkish-Armenian border opens.”

After offering the aforementioned simplistic ideas, de Waal turns to the Armenian Genocide recognition issue and tries to come up with a long-term solution to the perennial Armenian American lobbying efforts that “hobble” the United States. He calls the confrontation in Congress on this issue between Armenians and Turks “grubby political bargaining.”

According to de Waal, Obama’s broken promise on the Armenian Genocide and his use of “Medz Yeghern” (Great Calamity) as a substitute for the term “genocide” is “a dignified formula.”

Here is what de Waal suggests: “In order to move away from this annual agony, it makes sense to reframe the Armenian-Turkish issue within a longer perspective. The coming centenary of the Armenian holocaust in five years’ time in 2015 and the growing debate within Turkey on the ‘Armenian question’ gives impetus to this approach. In 2015—whether the Turks like it or not—the world will mark the anniversary of the Armenian tragedy. The president could deliver a message on April 24, 2010, in which he notes that the centenary commemorations are now five years away and pledges that, if still in office, he will join in those events (perhaps even in Yerevan), but in which he also promises the Turks a little peace until then by affirming his faith in the internal debate in Turkey. Obama could say, ‘We hope to mark this tragic date with our Turkish friends, and not without them,’ and aspire to be a catalyst for Armenian-Turkish reconciliation.”

What de Waal is suggesting is simply a ploy to bury the Armenian Genocide issue for another five years, while creating a breathing space for the ratification of the defunct protocols.

Before Obama can be trusted to keep any new promises, he needs to uphold the ones he has already made and broken. Besides, what guarantees do we have that the president will be re-elected for a second term and that, even if he is, he will keep his pledge?

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. 2015 is NOT good enough and neither is next month or next year. Passing the Armenian Genocide recognition bill by the US Congress next week along with a sincere written apology to our community on behalf of President Obama for America’s tacit complicity in aiding and abetting genocide deniers is LONG OVERDUE and the least that can be done to reassert America’s credibility against genocide and its denial.
    Delay tactics, cowardly excuses, fear mongering, political theatrics and spineless promises by either party will no longer suffice in accumulating votes. Action will.

  2.   Turks and the world can play the delay game of the recognition of Genocide for 2015, 3015 or 4015, I don’t care about that. But they must not delay the return of our lands any other minute, and they should not delay any reparation any other second. The return of all lands up to the Wilsonian map including parts of Cilicia would be a start to sit-down around negotiation tables.
    Allowing tourists to visit few Armenian site is not enough, the entire land must be returned without any further delays.
    After that whether they want to recognize the Genocide or go to Mecca and confess their sins does not interest me at all.

    We’ve been in this trap of the G-word for over 60 years now with absolutely no results.

  3. Dear Disgruntled American Voter and Haro.. I agree with everything you said 100%.

    It is bad enough US pushed this protocol matter on Armenia, now they are playing the cat and mouse game.. trying to side with both countries… but that is not how it plays out..

    US stands for democracy, freedom of speech, justice and truth…well at least that is how they show to other countries; however from their actions in regards to the Armenian Genocide… they are NOTHING but scared rabbits… As strong, powerful country as US being belittled like this by Turkey is unheard of… I just can’t wrap my mind around this.. as to why US is scared sooo much of Turkey.. US does not need Turkey as much as Turkey needs USA…. but US acts like cowards.. What can Turkey do to scare US this much? WHAT? by withdrawing its Ambassador?

    Just like the Disgruntled American Voter stated..

    Recognizing the Genocide once and for all and having Obama send out an apology to all Armenians for breaking his promise is the first step.. then as Haro stated, we will need to get our lands back little by little.. until everything is returned to us according to Woodrow Wilson’s map….
    Does not matter how long they delay, we will not stop fighting for what belongs to us…

    Thank you

  4. Gayane, you did not get my point. There is no first to having our lands back. That is the essence of the trap I am talking about. We cannot have “First recognize Genocide and then have our lands back…”. This is the trap that got us nowhere…
    No! my people, Armenians, push for the lands and reparation, whether they recognize the Truth or not… The Truth is not conditional, it is and will remain the truth. Genocide is a historic truth, and does not need anybody’s recognition for it. So let’s not have a chicken mentality on this matter.
    By waiting for a recognition we are indeed putting this Truth under doubt… Can’t people get this point…

  5. Haro, I can’t help saying you’re daydreaming.  What makes you think that Turkey will give up even a square mile of its land  in the first place? I advice you to lower your expectaitons. :)

    • cihangir, i think you’re “daydreaming” thinking that your kind can hold on to your ill gotten gains of western Armenia though genocide and mass murder!

  6. Cihangir,

    Turkey will give up its land, you said? Give me one historical evidence, just a single one, proving that Bitlis, Van, Diyarbekir-Tigranakert, Sivas-Sebasitia, Erserum, Kharberd, Kars were ever originally Turkish before the Turks occupied these lands in the Ottoman Empire. Give me just a singly proof that the whole Armenian civilization inhabitting these lands was not wiped out in 1915. Give me a proof that these lands were not assigned to their rightful owners–the Armenians–by the Woodrow Wilson’s Arbitral Award. Nothing is permanent in history, nothing is permanent in geography. Nation-states undergo changes and modifications due to a host of reasons. Noone here expects that Armenia will affect Turkish handover of our lands, there are many other factors–domestic and international–that can ultimately make this happen. Our expectations are not designed to conquer other peoples’ lands as the Turks did. We want our own lands from which we were expelled and brutally massacred en masse. And we will never cease our efforts. EVER!

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