Commentary: Armenia Needs Support, Not Bashing

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By Kevork Marashlian

The announcement by the Armenian and Turkish foreign ministries of protocols as guidelines for establishing diplomatic relations and for developing relations in multiple spheres between both countries has elicited a knee-jerk response of a doom-and-gloom scenario by many arm-chair political pundits in the Armenian Diaspora and mainly in the US, even before political circles in Armenia have declared their positions for or against this new development. Numerous others are jumping on the bandwagon in a rush of bashing the government of Armenia.

A case in point is George Aghjayan’s response in the Armenian Weekly to the ADL Eastern US and Canada District’s statement on the protocols. The ARF leader from the Worcester area considers the announcement of the protocols “a disaster of Armenia’s foreign policy” and misinterprets the ADL statement when he says, “the ADL seems satisfied that simply announcing diplomatic relations …suffices ‘for a political victory for Armenia.’” Whereas the ADL statement clearly indicates that if Turkey does not back down again (as it did following the April 22 announcement of the road map for opening of the borders), eventually, the process may result in a political victory of Armenia’s initiative of the football diplomacy.

The first word of the protocol is, “Desiring to establish good neighborly relations …”. So it is an agreement to agree on a long list of propositions, not a done-deal, and there is no indication that all items have to be agreed upon as a condition for establishing normal relations.

Armenia is under tremendous pressure by the West, mainly by the US, but so also is Turkey, to establish normal relations. Isn’t Azerbaijan also pressured not to rock the boat? And if this is all a set up of a game of agreements and broken agreements, then why should Armenia be denied to play by the same rules of the game? We should have a minimum of trust and confidence in Armenia’s leadership and not jump the gun accusing them of selling out our homeland, our rights and our future. Everyone certainly has the right to express opinions, concerns and criticisms, but crossing the line into judging, accusing and slandering is unacceptable.

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About two years ago when Turkey’s president offered then Armenia’s President Robert Kocharian to form an international panel of historians to discuss the historical veracity of the Armenian Genocide, Kocharian rightfully turned down the offer, but proposed to establish diplomatic relations and to open the borders without any preconditions, and proposed the formation of a number of intergovernmental commissions and sub-commissions to examine all issues between the two countries. Turkey ignored Kocharian’s counterproposal. And now, more than two years later, Turkey accepts precisely the same proposal in the form of nicely written-up protocols. But at the time, Kocharian’s counterproposal was not attacked vehemently by our pundits as it is being done now.
Instead of spending our energies to further press the overburdened leadership of Armenia, let us redouble our efforts to increase our political pressure on our own US government to shape its foreign policy of  the Caucasus by reconciling US national interests with historical justice. This is certainly an immense task for the relatively small US Armenian community, but it is just as immense a task for the relatively small country of Armenia and Artsakh to stand up indefinitely to the combined pressures of the West, the EU, Turkey, Azerbaijan and their allies, no matter how just a cause Armenia stands for.

If at the cost of reasonable concessions Armenia can achieve the lifting of the blockade, opening of the borders and establishment of normal relations with Turkey, it will breathe easier and will secure its strengthening and development, which are its most immediate and urgent needs.

(Kevork Marashlian is the executive secretary of ADL Eastern District of US and Canada.)