05 February 2008

2323) Breaking the Was-It-Or-Not-Genocide Gridlock

The scale of tragedy for both Ottoman Armenians and Turks in the final days of the Ottoman empire ought to be a matter of further scholarly research and not of political speculation. Moderate forces on both sides must break the interminable was-it-or-not-genocide dispute with confidence-building measures meant to normalize relations between . . Turkey and Armenia.

The authors rightly suggest the study of the terrible events for both peoples to be left to professional historians. In fact, this is Turkey’s official position. Turkish Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, recommended in March 2005 to Armenian authorities the creation of a joint Turkish-Armenian team of historians tasked with producing an objective assessment of the disputed events. This reconciliation measure towards Armenia drew solid support from across the Turkish political system. Yet regrettably the Armenian officials rejected such a way out of this meaningless gridlock.

Contrary to the authors’ claim about inaccessible Turkish archival materials on the 1915 events due to their sensitive character, PM Erdogan confirmed the availability of state archives to the general public and interested researchers in particular. Prominent Western historians, like Justin McCarthy and Stanford Shaw, made full use of these archival documents to refute allegations of genocide towards Ottoman Armenians. Also, Emeritus Professor of Political Science Guenter Lewy at the University of Massachusetts, forcefully argues that the deaths of the Ottoman Armenians were not premeditated, and, therefore, fall short of suiting the term ‘genocide’. They were the result of the clashes between Ottoman Turks and their fellow Armenian countrymen from certain Armenian-populated locations in Eastern Anatolia because of the latter switch of allegiance to the rival Russian army against the former during World War I. This verdict, of course, does not diminish the human loss for the conflicting parties but, instead, serves to prevent using the issue for purposes of political propaganda.

The reader learns about the law passed the France’s lower house of parliament in 2006 which provides fines and prison terms for denying the Armenian genocide. Yet the Moldovan public should also know that the then French Prime Minister, Dominique de Villepin, publicly distanced himself from the sponsors of the law. De Villepin argued against the decision of the French parliamentarians to legislate on issues of history and memory. Also, Turkey’s admission of the Armenian genocide is not regarded by Brussels as a precondition for Turkey’s entry into the EU.

A hotly contested remains the number of Ottoman Armenians who died during that tumultuous period. Turkey estimated the death toll at 300,000 people which represents a realistic statistics corroborated by several solid sources. The number speculated by the Armenian side, i.e., 1.5 million deaths, does not even stand a cursory scrutiny because the overall number of Armenians residing in the Ottoman Empire at that time was only 1.3 million.

Also, there is solid evidence suggesting that the alleged telegrams of the Ottoman Interior Minister Talat Pasha conveying the orders for the destruction of the Armenians are mere forgeries. But these probes constitute the central pillar of the genocide allegations! Furthermore, what source claiming the non-existence of the genocide could be more convincing then personal statements of the first prime minister of the independent Armenian Republic, Hoyhannes Katchaznouni!

It should be noted that Turkey has always been keen to normalize its relations with Armenia. It was among the first to recognize Armenia’s independence on 16 December 1991 as well as extended humanitarian aid to ease the social pain inflicted on ordinary Armenians by the post-communist transition. It also facilitated the transit of humanitarian aid destined for Armenia through its territory. Turkey consistently supported Armenia’s integration into international organizations as well as invited Armenia into the Black Sea Economic Cooperation as a founding member. One of Turkey’s multiple unilateral steps include the issuing of visa for Armenians at border points for 30 days. Thousands of Armenian citizens reside primarily for employment in Turkey.

Unfortunately, these significant steps taken by Turkey have not thus far been reciprocated by the official Yerevan. Yet such measures carry tangible benefits for ordinary Armenian people, and precisely for this reason the unfruitful was-it-or-not-genocide gridlock ought to be overcome.

Source: Argumenty I. Fakty V Moldove (Claims and Truths in Moldovia) Newspaper- 23-29 .01. 2008

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