When in 2015 Armenia commemorated the Centennial of the Armenian Genocide, there were skeptics, who cynically commented that history shall be left to historians. “One shall not be a hostage of one’s own past,” they argued, repeating the mantra about the difference between the Republic of Turkey and the Ottoman Empire. This thesis is not self-born; it is a brainchild of the bloodiest dictator currently in power in the entire Eurasian continent – Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. He has made many attempts to push away any calls for recognition and condemnation of the Armenian genocide, which in the future paved the way for the Holocaust, and other grave crimes against humanity. He even tried to sugarcoat the genocide in Darfur, Sudan. Despite a series of recognitions by leading world powers, including Germany, Turkey’s ally in World War I, whose President Gauk spoke of German compliance in that crime in his speech in Berlin Cathedrial on April 23, 2015, Turkey continues to deny and disregard the calls of the European Parliament, its international partners, and its own civil society.

Many, including my own people, often refer to the Genocide as a Great Calamity, a tragedy. As the Chief Coordinator of the Centennial, I have many times stated in my interviews, editorials, and comments that genocide is first of all a crime, and only its consequences are a tragedy, a calamity. And the difference is clear: tragedy solicits sympathy, but crime asks for punishment. Without recognition and punishment, there is no way to prevent repetition of the crime.

Denial of a genocide has direct consequences and implications. Leaving the history of World War II and fascism to the historians, leaving the history of dictatorial regimes in Latin American countries to the historians, leaving the history of slavery and extermination of Native Americans to the historians would be a clear path to repetition of those terrible crimes. Words are insufficient to prevent these events. Recognition, punishment, and incorporation of lessons learned into political decisions is essential to the task of prevention of the repetition of the crime of Genocide.

I have often heard from my foreign friends that Armenians seem to be exaggerating. “It is not the same Turkey now,” they would say. Arguments included Turkey’s constraints as a member of NATO, as an aspirer to the European Union, as a major player in G-20 and with a dynamically developing economy. Many would refer to the empowered civil society, Turkish intellectuals, and modern secular state structure.

Recep Erdogan is once again on the offensive – in Libya, Iraq, Syria, Eastern Mediterranean, and now South Caucasus. After decades of openly and covertly funding, arming, training, and supporting Azerbaijani military, he now openly engages proxy terrorist groups from Syria. Using Turkish aviation, armaments and military personnel to support a full-scale offensive of Azerbaijani army against the people of Nagorno Karabakh, whose only claim is for the right for self-determination. Since 1969 Azerbaijan itself has been ruled by an oil-rich dictatorial dynasty of Aliyevs. With Turkey they have consistently stated that they are “one nation living in two states.” People of Artsakh will never be part of that one nation or the two states.

As I was writing this op-ed, the news came of a Turkish F-16 supporting military operation of Azerbaijani forces against peaceful villages on the territory of the Republic of Armenia. Minutes later that same plane targeted and hit a military airplane of the Armenian armed forces within the territory of Armenia.

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There is no doubt that Artsakh and Armenia will once again bring the aggressor to defeat as it has happened over and over in the past. One of the consequences of this unprovoked aggression waged jointly by Azerbaijan and Turkey is already clear: Turkey has now openly entered the conflict in the South Caucasus, once again becoming a regional troublemaker. It is an amateur action from a state with global ambitions. Turkey continues its bullish and aggressive policy towards all of its neighbors, fully in line with its declared policy vision of ‘neoottomanism’ – an attempt to restore Turkish control over the wider region of Balkans, Middle East and Caucasus. It is crucial to recognize that one of the reasons Turkey behaves the way it does, is that statements, signals, and symbols adopted by Erdogan’s Turkey have gone largely unnoticed. Muted reaction from the world has encouraged Turkey. One can only imagine what would be the reaction if any other offspring of the former Empires in Europe or Asia publicly declared in the 21st century its neo-imperial ambitions, incorporated those into its national security doctrine, and acted in line with that self-explanatory vision.

The Defense Army of Artsakh will be supported in its efforts to restore peace and protect the Motherland by the entire nation – in the Motherland and in Diaspora. From reserve mobilization and financial assistance, to public diplomacy and awareness-building efforts like this one, myself as with every Armenian in the world, shall stand united today in stopping the aggressor now, and on our terms.

As the UN Security Council convenes today to discuss the situation in the region, all member states shall combine forces to immediately stop Turkey and Azerbaijan, and get the situation under control. Co-Chairs of the Minsk Group, the sole international mediation format responsible for the Nagorno-Karabakh settlement, shall clearly signal that recent developments undermine past efforts and continuation of any negotiations is impossible without a proper investigation of the causes of this aggression. The aggressor shall be called to pay the price of this irresponsible and futile attack in the midst of the international pandemic.

The reaction of the international community shall be rapid and targeted. Today is not the time for neutral and vague “calls on the parties”, or reference to past statements, documents, and processes. Everything is crystal clear: Turkey, the perpetrator of the Armenian Genocide is back to the region with new plans of extermination of Armenians in Armenia and Artsakh as part of their neottoman strategy of completing the unfinished business of the rotted Ottoman Empire. NATO and Turkey’s allies in that organization, allies of Armenia, all major international players have the primary responsibility of stepping up their efforts on leashing Turkey and its proxy-state – Azerbaijan.

Consequences of the introduction of Syrian rebels and international mercenaries to yet another region, where they were non-existent before, is in direct violation of efforts of the international society to prevent the spread of terrorism and non-state militant groups. Activities of such groups in the immediate neighborhood of the risk-potent regions of the North Caucasus will easily fuel national and regional security concerns, and pave the way for adequate steps by Russia. There is no room for politically correct and balanced statements now. It is time to act.

September 30, 2020

Vigen Sargsyan is the former Defense Minister of Armenia. This commentary originally appeared on the website Mediamax.am


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