Turkey’s foreign policy establishment is working overtime to convince the Biden Administration to abstain, like its predecessors, from using the term genocide during the annual commemoration on April 24.
Relations between the US and Turkey continue to be frigid, as there are several outstanding issues between the two parties that need to be resolved. Ankara prioritizing and concentrating its efforts towards stopping the recognition of the Armenian Genocide indicates the importance of the issue for Turkey. When Turkey invests so much in this problem, the Armenian side — particularly those who question and dismiss the issue by questioning what difference recognition makes — need to also recognize its political currency and consequences for the future of Armenia.
The pro-government Turkish newspaper Sabah has announced on its site that President Erdogan’s Spokesman Ibrahim Kalin has reached out to the White House through Jack Sullivan, the national security advisor, to warn against the use of the term genocide, advancing four points, as if lawyers and historians needed any tutorials on the issue.
Mr. Kalin maintains that the Armenian massacres do not qualify to be termed as genocide because no court ruling exists about the issue, such as those regarding the more recent horrors in Rwanda and Srebrenica, ignoring the rulings of the 1919 Istanbul Military Tribunals.
He next suggests that the term genocide was officially adopted in 1948, perhaps referring to the UN resolution, which is retroactive anyway. Third, he suggests that the use of the term may affect Turkish-American relations, which are already damaged; really, it is that Turkey that must be more worried about repairing the frayed relations than the US. The fourth point is the same old rhetoric that a new situation — in this case in the Caucasus — may be disrupted as a result.
Regarding his last point, a cautionary warning should be included: the Armenian government must not fall into a Turkish trap which has caused previous attempts for recognition to fail, allowing Ankara to spread the false narrative that negotiations are ongoing between Armenia and Turkey, and that any third-party involvement may jeopardize the outcome.