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Review & Outlook - 03/23/2010

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Armenian News Network / Groong
March 23, 2010

By Raffi K. Hovannisian


A couple of sentences in a non-binding resolution, passed by the House
of Representatives foreign affairs committee on March 4, softly
reaffirming the genocide of the Armenian people and the forcible
dispossession of their homeland has got Turkey threatening the world,
the US administration complicitly trying to hush Congress by blocking
a vote on the floor, and many Armenians celebrating a rare moment
against the odds.  The Swedish parliament's March 11 decision to
recognize and then its prime minister's extraterrestrial apology to
Turkey have only raised the stakes.

But there is nothing to celebrate.

The Armenian people lost more than a million souls and their ancient
patrimony in what US Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire Henry
Morgenthau, a full generation before Raphael Lemkin coined `genocide,'
described in 1915 as `race extermination.'  The US National Archives -
together with those of Great Britain, Canada, France, Italy, and even
Germany, a close Turkish ally at the time - comprise thousands of
eyewitness, diplomatic, consular, and military documents which attest
to this first genocide of modern times.

On the balance of commemorative bills and declarations, therefore,
lies the integrity of Western civilization - not the perennial
Armenian quest for recognition and redemption or even Ankara's
long-standing policy of shameful denial.

If President Obama and Secretary Clinton want to renege on their
previous commitments and so continue their predecessors' realpolitik
in effective mockery of the exemplary American record, it's their
prerogative.  This resolution and the annual April 24 statement
offered by the president are opportunities for THEM to set AMERICAN
history straight and to pay due tribute to the US and European
ambassadors, consuls, relief officials, servicemen, and missionaries
who bore witness and worked relentlessly but ultimately helplessly to
prevent the Armenian genocide.

Other than that, such initiatives and the standard Turkish response of
blackmail and double jeopardy serve only to trivialize the unrequited
crime against humanity which opened the twentieth century.  As a
grandson of four survivors, I lose nothing more if Mr. Obama trumps
his own history and his own conscience by not calling Genocide by its
name.  It is he who must decide whether `yes we can' was, like the
White House, an end unto itself.

For Washington, Ankara, and other capitals in alliance, it is high
time to uncover a few fundamental truths, whether they are
self-evident or not.

1. By the vice of genocide the Armenians were fully and finally
uprooted from their heartlands, which remain to this day under Turkish
dominion.  Despite the beginnings of a civil-society movement in
Turkey to face history and seek reconciliation through truth, the
leadership of state continues to reap the fruits of genocide by
denying it, criminalizing the very use of that term, laying strategic
pipelines across its killing fields, and asserting its existing de
facto borders with Armenia despite the de jure frontier that was
demarcated by T. Woodrow Wilson's arbitral award and issued under
presidential seal in November 1920.

2. Accordingly, Turkey has no standing to impose its preconditions of
choice - removal of genocide recognition from the international
agenda, ratification of the existing boundary as negotiated by the
Bolsheviks and Kemalists behind Armenia's back in 1921, and the
gifting of Mountainous Karabagh to Azerbaijan - upon the establishment
of diplomatic relations with the modern-day Republic of Armenia.  If
Ankara wants in good faith to turn a new page with Yerevan, then it
should do so by immediately lifting its unilateral blockade of
Armenia, exchanging notes and then ambassadors, and building
confidence to resolve the array of outstanding issues between them.
This cannot and will not happen through the signature and ratification
of condition-laden protocols with an Armenian administration that
lacks public mandate and basic democratic credentials.

3. Either the two neighboring nations move forward without the
positing of any preconditions whatsoever or, if the Turks really
insist on them, the Armenians must retrieve the symmetry of process
and put all of their positions on the table as well.  These might
include remedies, available under customary or conventional
international law, of genocide acknowledgment, atonement, remembrance,
and education; a comprehensive inventory and restoration of the
Armenian cultural heritage; a guaranteed right of return for the
progeny of genocide victims and survivors; a full restitution of
properties to the original owners or their rightful heirs; a final
territorial adjudication and provision of sovereign access to the sea.
If the parties prefer and possess the requisite self-confidence, they
can entrust the whole package to the International Court of Justice.

4. Turkey has no ethical basis or maneuver room to pontificate about
`occupation' except in the context of its own dispossession of the
Armenians, Kurds, Assyrians, Yezidis, Alewis, Greeks, and Cypriots.
As for the Republic of Mountainous Karabagh, whose constitutional
foundations are even firmer than Kosovo's or Abkhazia's, it achieved
its post-Stalinist decolonization by referendum held in compliance
with both international and controlling Soviet law and then was forced
to defend it against Azerbaijan's Turkish-supported but nonetheless
failed war of aggression.  If ever the rule of law really exists,
Mountainous Karabagh has earned its independence and the right to be
recognized - through legitimate liberation, not Ottoman-style
occupation.  It appears today that the specter of military
conflagration, threatened daily from Baku and between the lines from
Ankara, could overcome the fragile cease-fire in place since 1994.

5. In all events, Germany and its postwar example of cleansing
remorse, reparation and then leadership constitute the appropriate
point of departure.  The Genocide and world inaction to punish its
perpetrators begot the Holocaust.  Coming full circle, Turkey and its
contemporary generation ought to consider taking the German high road
before it's too late.

As we approach April 24 and the great American proclamation on its
95th passing, these simple points might better inform policy and give
a more meaningful ring to the words we use, the passages we recite,
and the values we hold hallow.

Raffi K. Hovannisian, Armenia's first foreign minister, currently
represents the Heritage Party in parliament.

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