takes two days to make the shortest trip by bus
from Yerevan to Istanbul, although the Turkish
border can be seen from many Armenians' doorsteps.
And the route goes by Batumi, which makes the
trip even longer and more distressing since the
Georgian roads are half-broken. It might not be
the easiest journey in the region but certainly
necessary for some Armenians who make a living
out of commerce with Turkish merchandise.
Hostility between the two governments is hardly
an issue for the merchants, but it is part of
what makes their life difficult.
Even though Armenia and Turkey share a common
history, contemporary relations are blocked by
two issues: Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and Genocide.
But the extensive debate over the latter one
has raised new hopes for Armenians following the
results of a recent legal analysis.
Last month the International Center for Transitional
Justice, a foundation assisting countries following
liability for human rights abuses, released a
report that proves the applicability of the term
"genocide" to actions carried out in
Turkey at the beginning of last century.
The analysis was conducted at the request of
the Turkish-Armenian Reconciliation Commission
(TARC) and has a strictly legal, not a historical
or factual, character.
It proves that systematic exterminations of most
of the male Armenian population and the forced
deportation of the remainder from the Ottoman
Empire in 1915 meet at least three elements stipulated
in the article I of the United Nations Genocide
That is "(1) one or more persons were killed;
(2) such persons belonged to a particular national,
ethnic, racial or religious group; and (3) the
conduct took place in the context of a manifest
pattern of similar conduct directed against that
According to the analysis the only area of disagreement
was on whether the events took place with the
intent to destroy the Armenians as a national,
ethnic, or religious group.
However, its authors draw the conclusion that:
"at least some of the perpetrators of the
events knew that the consequence of their actions
would be the destruction, in whole or in part,
of the Armenians of eastern Anatolia, as such,
or acted purposively towards this goal, and, therefore,
possessed the requisite genocidal intent".
Some analysts believe the result of this study
is a considerable impulse to the attempt of advancing
relations between Turkey and Armenia although
numerous other breakdowns were previously achieved.
"Crucial is that this analysis is a political,
and not a historical, approval of the genocide,
which the outside world acknowledged already years
ago", says Alexander Iskandarian, political
scientist at the Caucasus Media Institute, who
also points out that the neutrality of its authors
might also have a significant influence on later
debates around the issue.
But more noteworthy is that the request for it
came jointly from the Armenian and Turkish members
of TARC together, which Iskandarian sees as an
unprecedented case in circumstances that Armenia
and Turkey have no diplomatic ties at all.
TARC was founded two years ago and includes many
former government officials from both countries,
such as former foreign ministers and several ambassadors,
as well as representatives of both nations' diasporas
from Russia and the US.
Commission members themselves admit the genocide
issue was never an easy one and that many initiatives
to call for an independent research were taken
earlier. The TARC request was realized last June
and the analysis taken over the following six
"In order to reach this point they needed
time," says Iskandarian.
Indeed, people cannot expect fast results for
such a delicate issue, above all because debates
around the genocide started relatively recently
in Armenia, as they were a tabu during the Soviet
Even now both governments are hindered by different
political reasons to take crucial decisions; therefore
civil societies try to assume the upper hand.
For some this is a hope. But for many it is yet
another theoretical study that may not necessarily
be a guarantee that the governments will reach
an agreement and start immediately to cooperate.
While Iskandarian considers that the first impediment
in the relations between Armenia and Turkey is
the genocide factor, officials say this issue
has never been a precondition for starting the
"I don't know whether this particular analysis
will increase the chances of the genocide recognition
by the Turkish government", says Dziunik
Aghajanian, spokeswoman at the Ministry of Foreign
Affairs, "but I know that the more countries
accept the realities of the 1915 events as being
genocide, the chances for recognition by Turkey
Nor do the theoreticians believe that genocide
recognition by Turkey would instantaneously generate
railroads and highways or mean that products would
start to flow between Armenia and Turkey. But
such documents at least bring up new discussions
and sooner or later they can also influence the
governments to take steps towards improving their