Armenian-Turkish Relations after the Centennial: What to Expect?
The Armenian and Turkish societies will continue strengthening the relations after the Armenian Genocide Centennial, and both societies are seeing dynamic shifts. The society in Turkey does not hold a single opinion over the Armenian Genocide since it is divided into sub-societies which have drastically divergent approaches towards Armenia and the Genocide.

The Institute for War and Peace Reporting Armenia Branch, in cooperation with the Media Center, held the discussion “Armenia-Turkey Relations after the Armenian Genocide Centennial: Obstacles to Reconciliation and Developments Required.”

Prominent expert from Turkey, lecturer in political science, member of the board of directors at the Hrant Dink Foundation, columnist at Taraf Cengiz Aktar and expert-analyst, Director of the Yerevan-based Analytical Centre on Globalization and Regional Cooperation Stepan Grigoryan, and political expert, director at the Caucasus Institute Alexander Iskandaryan shared thoughts on the recent developments.

Cengiz Aktar has recently observed “crucial tendencies” regarding the Armenian Question within the Turkish society. People get back to their roots, memories are restored and Aktar describes it as an irreversible process. There is no unified Turkey any longer, “there are Turkeys,” Aktar believes.

“The society in Turkey is divided into sub-societies. There is the official position of Turkey and there are subgroups: academic circles, young people, civil activists who think different,” said Cengiz Aktar.

Aktar spoke on Ankara’s sharp response after Pope Francis uses the word “genocide” and the Austrian Parliament adopted a declaration on the Armenian Genocide. Ankara recalled its ambassadors at the Holy See and Austria, consequently becoming – Aktar said – the country with the highest number of recalled diplomats.

“Ankara has recalled its diplomats in Israel, Egypt, Damascus, Vatican and Austria. If it continues this way, turkey will not need diplomatic relations,” said Aktar.

Alexander Iskandaryan agreed with Cengiz Aktar and went on to note that dozens in Turkey openly speak out about the Genocide, and what happens in Turkey now would actually be impossible decades ago.

“Cengiz would get to jail or forced to emigrate for such statements,” the speaker said, recalling Hrant Dink who did not have a passport for 20 years and could not leave Turkey.

A lot of people in Armenia fail to understand the ongoing changes in Turkey, Iskandaryan believes. “Turkey is changing from inside and not only towards Armenia but towards Kurds, human rights protection, freedom of speech and other issues as well. People in Armenia often fancy Turkey as wholeness and when speaking about the Armenian-Turkish relations, they mention Erdoğan, Davutoğlu and Ankara.”

Meanwhile, Armenia does not bear a single rigid approach towards Turkey, he said.

“The dynamics of changes within Armenia has long surpassed the normalization process of the two countries’ relations. If years ago 99 percent of people associated Turkey with Talaat Pasha, World War I or Genocide, now Turkey is a neighbor country. A bad country that does not recognize the Genocide and its past but it is a modern country bordering Armenia,” he said.

Following the failure in the Armenia-Turkey reconciliation, both sides returned to the previous paradigm: Turks are enemies, Russians are friends, Stepan Grigoryan believes.

“We have returned to addressing issues through a third party. We urge other nations to force Turkey into recognizing the Genocide,” said Grigoryan and added Turkey is to blame for the situation since it set forth preconditions, employed a simple pro-Azerbaijani position and evaded normalizing relations.

“I am convinced Armenians must start a direct dialogue with the Turkish society over diverse issues which will lead to shifts affecting political decisions,” said the speaker.

“The most important fact is that the Turkish authorities do not hinder the process,” Cengiz Aktar said.

“I do not hope for dramatic shifts in the relations as I don’t see real reasons for them. But one day the border will open since there can never be eternally closed borders. And when it is done we will have to face quite new a situation which we are not prepared for,” said Iskandaryan, adding the mutual perceptions in both countries are inadequate.

People in Armenia – civil society representatives and scholars, as well as entrepreneurs – are interested in Turkey.

“Meanwhile, there is a different situation in Turkey. It is a large country and people living in far-away localities can as well be unaware of Armenia. Armenia doesn’t interest Turkey as much as Turkey interests Armenians,” he said.

Arshaluys Mghdesyan, Editor-Coordinator

Please contact the author at [email protected]

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