Suren Bagdasaryan says an open border will
bring wide-ranging geopolitical changes
Last month's meeting between Armenia's and Turkey's
ministers of foreign affairs has intensified media
debate and speculation on relations between the
Following their meeting in Madrid, Armenian Minister
of Foreign Affairs Vardan Oskanian and his counterpart
Abdullah Gul voiced their readiness to establish
diplomatic relations. But what might have been
politically-conscious rhetoric turned into news
when statements were released to media.
Within the past week, for example, interviews
have appeared in Yerevan newspapers, reporting
comments from a Parliamentarian and the leader
of the Armenian National Security Party concerning
relations with Turkey.
Deputy Ruben Hayrapetyan told Haykakan Zhamanak:
"It doesn't take brains or an economist to
understand that the opening of the Armenian-Turkish
border will substantially improve our economic
conditions. Finally it is high time to stop yelling
about being massacred. I don't want my children
to live with a victim's syndrome."
But the ANSP party's Garnik Isagulyan countered
that if the border is opened: ". . . cheap
Turkish goods will start flowing into the country
and Armenia's industry and agriculture will not
be able to withstand competition.
"Only a very small group of Armenian businessmen
will enjoy benefits - people who actually have
a monopoly on the economic sphere and are called
oligarchs. It cannot be ruled out that the press
reports about the expediency of opening the border
are connected with the influence of this group."
Armenian diplomats say that the rumors about an
impending bridge in Armenian-Turkish relations,
has been grossly exaggerated.
Oskanian said that the opening of land borders
did not correspond to the letter of his meeting
with his Turkish counterpart.
He said that both sides expressed willingness
to improve relations and they agreed to start
with smaller steps.
Speculation was further fueled by announcement
from Speaker of Parliament Artur Bagdasaryan (Orinats
Yerkir party). The Speaker emphasized the need
to establish relations between Armenian and Turkish
Parliaments - a suggestion that was evaluated
as a serious discord within the government coalition,
as the various sides did not take positively Bagdasaryan's
But since attention has been drawn to the perceived
disagreement, parliamentarians deny rumors about
any problems within the coalition.
Vahan Hovhannisyan (Dashnaktsutyan Party) the
Vice-Speaker of Parliament, accuses mass media
of forcing the events and making early groundless
conclusions concerning the mood in Parliament.
"The journalists exaggerate the information,"
he says, "probably because there is a lack
of story ideas as it is summer, and they are ready
to make a sensation of nothing."
Hovhannisyan says what journalists call a problem
between the sides of a coalition is a routine
process when agreement is reached through debate.
As for opening the border with Turkey, Hovhannisyan
says that it could be dangerous for Armenia.
"The opening of the border will be profitable
for Armenia only in case of transit, when along
with the railway with Turkey the railway with
Azerbaijan and Abkhazia are opened too. Otherwise
Armenia will become an appendage of the Eastern
Turkish market, which is actually a western part
"The Turkish efforts to develop infrastructures
in that territory during many years yielded no
results, despite they promote investments in that
part. In this aspect Turkey will take more advantage
than Armenia when the border is opened."
Hovhannisyan says Turkey may gain more than
Armenia from an open border.
Any overture by Turkey of opening the border
as a favor to Armenia is not grounded in reality
"Turkey is under pressure from its Atlantic
partners for whom it is more and more difficult
to justify Turkish politics in the European structures
and in the US Congress," Hovhannisyan says.
"Turkey was needed as an ally but its role
is being reduced now and its historical crimes
and antidemocratic regime is hard to ignore for
the West. The Turkish blockade of Armenia does
not promote its image as a democratic country.
Turkey should change its politics to be attractive
for Western partners."
Whether exaggerated in media or debated in the
National Assembly, it is agreed that a solution
is just as complicated and complex as the problem.
Turkey expects Armenia to abandon its campaign
for international recognition of the 1915 genocide,
while for Armenia the recognition of genocide
as a top priority of foreign policy.
Alexander Arzumanyan, Armenia's former foreign
Minister, the founder of the (unofficial) "Turkish-Armenian
Reconciliation Commission believes that the Commission
promotes developing ties with Turkey and better
understanding between Turks and Armenians.
The Commission was founded in 2001 with the support
of foreign diplomatic institutions. It was harshly
criticized by the mass media who charged that
the Commission was anti-Armenian orientated.
For Arzumanyan such accusations are unjustified.
Despite there is no official response to the activity
of the Commission, its members meet several times
a year, initiating meetings of Armenian and Turkish
businessman, public organizations and journalists.
'The activity of the Commission should be estimated
by its results, not by its name," Arzumanyan
says. "Last year we applied to the International
Center for Transitional Justice (ICTJ) based in
New York, asking to investigate whether the UN
Convention for Genocide Recognition and Prevention
could be applied to the Armenian genocide."
Arzumanyan says that it was the first time when
Armenians and Turks jointly applied to the international
institution on the issue of the genocide.
The ICTJ published a report that the events of
1915 in Ottoman Turkey are considered as genocide
according to the UN convention. Arzumanyan says
although the result did not have an impact on
the present situation, it was a great result and
a step forward toward recognition.
Orientalist Suren Bagdasaryan said that despite
the genocide issue is an acute one for Armenians,
Turkey is not ready to accept its historical crime
as a fact.
"We should not forget that despite Diaspora
Armenians spending efforts on recognition of the
genocide for a long time, the genocide issue was
included in the agenda of Armenian foreign policy
only in 1998," Bagdasaryan says. "The
recognition of the genocide will force Turkey
to revise all its history and it will lose its
role in the region."
Bagdasaryan says neither the efforts of public
organizations nor the rare meetings of the countries'
diplomats will bring the positive effects. He
says that the opening of the land border probably
will be positive for the Armenian economy, but
doubts if Armenians are ready morally to have
an open border with its historical hangman.
'The opening of the border will change the geopolitical
structure of the whole region," he says.
"Not only Armenia, but also other countries
should be ready for that. Besides, Armenians will
have to be guaranteed protection after the land
borders will be opened."