Turkey, Armenia and why Biden used the ‘G’ word
Every year as April 24 approaches, hasty preparations are made in Turkey to counter what countries with strong Armenian communities will do to commemorate the day. This date is the anniversary of the 1915 resettlement of Armenians living in the eastern Ottoman provinces.
The Turkish point of view is that they were relocated because Armenian gangs were cooperating with the invading Russian army and committing atrocities against the Turks, in the hope of forging a homeland.
This year, the Turkish media as a whole focused on whether US President Joe Biden would use the word “genocide” in his statement. While Biden’s statement has no legal effect in international law, it may encourage several other countries to follow suit.
In a practice that has almost become a ritual in the US presidential campaign, the Armenian diaspora succeeded early in the campaign in extracting the presidential candidate’s promise that on April 24 he would use the word genocide if elected. . In the past, many presidents have promised it but have not kept their promise. Instead, they found an excuse not to use this word on the commemoration date and used other terms such as “great tragedy”. The only exception was Ronald Reagan, who in 1981 referred to “the Armenian genocide” in a different context.
Last week, Biden strayed from that tradition and used the word genocide in a written statement released on the April 24 commemoration. One of the reasons was probably because he wanted to demonstrate that he was a different president, but there are other reasons as well.
First, Turkish-American relations are in one of their most turbulent times in history. The reasons are as follows: Turkey’s purchase of the Russian-made S-400 air defense system; the involvement of the Turkish state bank Halkbank in circumventing US sanctions against Iran; Washington’s refusal to extradite Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, considered by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to be the man behind the failure of the 2016 military coup in Turkey; Turkey’s expulsion from the F-35 advanced fighter program; US military support for the Kurds in northern Syria; the collision course between Turkey and Greece in the eastern Mediterranean; the unstable cooperation between the two countries of Syria and Libya; and Turkey’s support for Azerbaijan in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict last year.
After Biden’s statement, the Turkish parliament unanimously declared it null and void.
Second, throughout his 45-year political career, Biden has consistently sided with Turkey in almost every controversy.
Third, Turkey has become more and more isolated on the international stage since 2011. This means that it is easier for the United States to adopt an anti-Turkey stance.
Biden has always kept a distance between himself and Erdogan. He did not respond to Erdogan’s call to congratulate him on winning the presidency for more than 90 days. He only called him a day before his Armenian announcement to tell the Turkish president that he would use the word genocide in his statement because of his promise to the electorate. Despite this, the conversation was not tense. They talked about areas of cooperation and promised to hold talks on the sidelines of the NATO summit in June.
Many in Turkey believe Biden’s attitude deserves a strong reaction, such as banning the United States from using NATO’s common infrastructure projects that are located in Turkey. This has been done once before, in 1970, when the United States imposed an arms embargo on Ankara, but Turkey’s hand is not as strong now as it was then. .
After Biden’s statement, the Turkish parliament unanimously declared it null and void. Erdogan’s spokesperson said: “There will be a reaction of different forms, kinds and degrees in the days and months to come.” These are visibly discreet reactions.
The Armenian Diaspora is doing all they can to keep alive the perception that the Ottoman Turks in fact committed the crime of genocide. Biden’s statement can now open a new page in this agenda. The descendants of Armenians who perished in 1915 may start an avalanche of new trials.
Turkey’s reaction to this has never matched the Armenians’ efforts. The Turks believe that their ancestors did nothing wrong. However, they fail to understand that sometimes perceptions are more important than facts and that they can only reverse the process by blaming others. Although nothing concrete can be obtained from the initiatives of the Armenians, their efforts to build a perception that the Ottoman Turks have committed genocide are likely to remain in limbo until Turkey and Armenia agree to work together. and to achieve reasonable accommodation.
• Yasar Yakis is a former Turkish Foreign Minister and a founding member of the ruling AK Party. Twitter: @yakis_yasar
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed by the editors in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Arab News