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ARMENIA NEEDS A BETTER COURSE

Semih İDİZ
08 February 2007 - Turkish Daily News
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!áH€ ="justify">The U.S. Congress is closer than ever to adopting a resolution which commemorates what it believes was genocide perpetrated against the Armenians in 1915 by the Ottoman administration. Diaspora Armenians in particular are enjoying a sense of victory, especially after the headway they made in the French Parliament last year.

An event took place yesterday, however, which shows what the real world is about, and how Armenia is the one to suffer the consequences of the campaign against Turkey on the genocide issue – an issue which Yerevan and the diaspora refuse to leave to a commission of historians from the two countries, also including international members, as suggested by Ankara.

Yesterday's event, mentioned above, was of course the inauguration by the President's of Turkey, Azerbaijan and Georgia of the Kars-Javakhati (Ah?lkelek)-Tbilisi-Baku railway, which, when completed in 24 months, will effectively connect London and Beijing by rail; hence the “Iron Silk Road” appellation it has already gained.

But it will do so with a major exception. It will bypass Armenia, even though that country has a dormant line that would have been much cheaper to revive in providing this connection.

Scoring against Turkey:

The efforts underway to revive the old Baghdad Railway line – connecting Europe and the Middle East over Turkey in that case – is another example of how Armenia will be missing an opportunity to establish links which would end its isolation.

But the Dashnak mentality continues to prevail in Yerevan, mostly due to the promptings of the Armenian diaspora. This mentality is more interested in scoring moral and political points against Turkey than in partaking in the cooperation emerging in the Southern Caucasus and beyond.

Yerevan relied heavily on the diaspora to prevent the railway project and even forced a bill through the U.S. Congress in this way that would prevent the United States from financing the $400 million project. The misguided assumption here was that the countries involved could not come up with the money needed.

Yesterday's ceremony was proof of how naive this view is. It also confirmed the belief that the greatest advantage that Turkey has always had against those maintaining enmity towards it is their gross underestimation of this country's capacities and capabilities.

Thus two years of hard lobbying to prevent the railway came to nothing, just as years of even harder lobbying failed to prevent the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline project, which is now up and running but bypasses Armenia.

A pyrrhic victory?

In other words the victory the Dashnaks believe they are scoring against Turkey is pyrrhic and will continue to be much more so in the future as Ankara takes less notice of pressure from the West, mainly due to the shabby treatment it got over issues such as its European Union membership bid and Cyprus.

One can not understand how Armenians hope to serve the genuine interests of Armenia today in this way. Most western officials find Turkey's suggestion of a commission of historians to investigate 1915 to be a very good idea. The irony, however, is that they feel no need to pressurize the Armenian side on this, instead heaping all the pressure on Turkey to accept, a priori, the reality of an Armenian genocide before it is even discussed.

If congressmen in Washington believe that passing the Armenian resolution this year will change Turkish minds on this score, they are wrong. It should be apparent from the past that Turks are becoming even more stubborn in such cases.

If Turkey was a country with few resources and was seriously beholden to outsiders, matters might be different. That, however, is not the case and is unlikely to be so anytime soon. Surely there are sound minds in Yerevan that see this and desire a different kind of understanding if relations with Turkey are to open up in ways that really make a difference for Armenia. In the meantime the funeral of Hrant Dink should have shown that there is a pool of dormant empathy in Turkey waiting to be tapped in order to help come to some understanding of the painful events of 1915, needing no force-feeding with a specific understanding of those events by means of foreign legislature.

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