The Diplomatic Victory of the Armenian Government

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By Hagop Vartivarian

Despite the fact that the protocols signed by Armenian and Turkey gave rise to quite a bit of commotion, particularly in segments of the diaspora with heavy concentrations of Armenians, the political organizations in Armenia, and particularly the main opposition group led by former President Levon Ter-Petrosian, did not react with total negativity to this initiative of the Armenian government. This was especially true when Armenian foreign minister Eduard Nalbandian and his Turkish counterpart Ahmet Davutoglu signed the initial agreements in Switzerland under the watchful eyes of the world’s major powers: Russia, the United States and the European Union.

It is already the beginning of March, and Armenia’s Constitutional Court has declared the Protocols to be valid, not finding anything therein to be unconstitutional. Now they are being reviewed in the National Assembly. However, the same didn’t happen in Turkey’s case. The freeze in relations between Turkey and Azerbaijan, as well as the importance of the resolution of the Karabagh conflict to Baku, put Turkey in a difficult position, inasmuch as those protocols had been signed without preconditions.

Once again, Turkey has begun to face an internal crisis, whereby the military personnel, who have always been the main force to ensure the country’s political balance, are being called one by one for questioning by the current authorities and judicial bodies. As it is, the Protocols signed on October 10, 2009 have begun to be questioned. The government that has been the architect of Turkey’s foreign policy has deviated from the secular political principles that had been applied for decades and has begun to develop good relations with neighboring Muslim (especially Iran) and Arab countries (Syria). On the one hand, Turkey is ignoring its traditionally strong military and economic ties with Israel and, on the other hand, more alarmingly, its ties with the West, when such important military structures exist on Turkish soil. This shift in policy will facilitate not only the advance of Russia but also the spread of the extremist Islamic movement.

In light of all this, Turkey finds itself at a critical juncture in its history: should she continue the policy adopted in recent years, or return to her traditional policy of fostering pro-Western relations?

In all probability, it will be difficult for Turkey to remove herself from the influence of the military. In the past too, various Turkish governments were obliged to submit to the military.

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All this considered, at this juncture Ankara will surely not wish to respect the dispositions of the protocols, especially since the Karabagh conflict and the Armenian Genocide weren’t put down as preconditions. Here lies the diplomatic success of the Armenian side. Armenian diplomacy had already envisioned that the ball would fall on the Turkish side in the event of the signing of the protocols, which is the suggestion of the international diplomacy.

Fortunately, our patriotic Armenian organizations — the Holy See Echmiadzin of the Armenian Apostolic Church, the Armenian General Benevolent Union, the Armenian Assembly, the Knights of Vartan, and the traditional Armenian Democratic Liberal Party members — stood by the Armenian government in their press and public appearances. As mentioned above, in terms of the political circles of Armenia, as well as the Diaspora, the majority of the diasporan Armenians are on the side of the governmental authorities in the homeland. As for the undue commotion raised by the Armenian Revolutionary Federation and a few thinned-out organizations hitched to its wagon, unfortunately it shows their lack of political farsightedness to view the clear policy conducted by the Armenian government as regards its neighboring countries, which has been drawn up particularly in agreement with Armenian’s northern neighbor, Russia. Foreign Minister Nalbandian is an experienced diplomatic fox from the old school, the term applied to notable diplomats of European countries.

Let’s return to our Armenian organizations and look at cases in which individuals from the traditional parties questions their political activity, either through public announcements or communiqués. Let’s being with the AGBU:

From the very first day of its foundation, the AGBU has engaged in politics; its birth was the result of the tragic sociopolitical situation in historical Armenia. During the period of the Armenian Genocide and thereafter, its founder and president, Boghos Nubar Pasha, as head of the Armenian National Delegation, pursued the rights of the Armenian people with European countries and the Great Powers. He took charge of and became a defender of the Armenian Cause till the end of his life. President Arshag Karagheusian did the same during the post-World War II repatriation; he ook charge of this tremendous project, ensuring the relocation of 100,000 Armenians to Soviet Armenia, whose objective was to ensure the minimum population required to maintain republic status, which was at risk owing to the human losses suffered during World War II.

Following the same policy, President Alex Manoogian maintained good relations with Soviet Armenia and the Mother See of Holy Echmiadzin during the most dreadful years of the Cold War, so that the patriotic and spiritual bond between the Armenian Diaspora and the homeland wouldn’t be severed. By his own example, he advocated for Diasporan Armenians to make a connection with Armenia for noble causes. Louise Simone did the same, by putting all the AGBU’s resources and the Artsakh liberation struggle, as well as the period following Armenia’s independence.

Fortunately, today as well, AGBU’s president, Berge Setrakian, following the course set by his predecessors, is continuing the clear-cut mission set forth by the organization. There is nothing wrong with that mission going beyond the realm of benevolence and embracing political activity for understandable reasons. Who has given our traditional political parties along the right to be active in political life? It is the obligation of each and every Armenian to work for the accomplishment of the noble goals represented by the Armenian Cause and the recognition of the Armenian Genocide. For his part, Setrakian had the foresight to support the Armenian governmental authorities in connection with the bilateral protocols.

The same is true in the case of the Armenian Church. For centuries, especially when we had lost the independence of our fatherland, the church has been our quasi government. It would take too long to list all the political activities, which the church and clergy have carried out, before and after the likes of Catholicos Nerses of Ashtarak (mid-19th century). However, just to mention a few: for six centuries, the Sublime Porte recognized the Armenian Patriarch of Constantinople as the head of the political authority of the Armenian people. It was Khrimian Hairig who sought to present the rights of his people at the Congress of Berlin. Our catholicoi sitting on the throne of the See of Echmiadzin were the ones who had contact with the tsarist Russian government. Today, as well, our diocesan primates enjoy political esteem in various diasporan communities, much more than our disorganized political party gomidehs and chapters.

The Armenian Assembly, in turn, plays a major role in our political life, having engaged in lobbying efforts for the recognition of the Armenian Genocide in the US Congress, as well as by the Republican or Democratic administrations, over the past 30-plus years. It can also be said, especially since the independence of Armenia, that the Assembly has had the lion’s share in ensuring that millions of US dollars are allocated to Armenia, something which the Armenian National Committee of America and, standing behind, it, the Armenian Revolutionary Federation, are pursuing, the Assembly is carrying out that sacred task for purely patriotic considerations.

As far as the Knights of Vartan is concerned, they are the ones who have organized the annual commemoration of the Armenian Genocide in New York’s Times Square for the past 20-odd years. One these solemn occasions, they have initiated prominent Armenian political figures to speak about our rights. The Knights of Vartan is doing, with utmost professionalism, that which the political parties were unable to do.

Finally, the traditional Ramgavars remained faithful to the political and patriotic platform drawn up by the founders of their party, and supported the decision made by the Armenian government in their press and public appearances. They could not behave otherwise, because each ADL member grew up having been educated thus.

Soon, when the Turks will not allow their current leaders to approve the Protocols, President Serge Sargisian and Foreign Minister Eduard Nalbandian a priori should merit congratulations for their diplomatic success. Also deserving congratulations are those holding responsible positions in our diasporan organizations, who had the courage to support the Armenian government, considering the largely negative atmosphere.

(Hagop Vartivarian of New Jersey if the chairman of the ADL Press Committee.)