I attended a media briefing at the Turkish Embassy yesterday, during which a group of visiting Turkish Foreign Affairs Committee members urged the U.S. House of Representatives not to pass H.R. 252 – which accuses Turkey of committing genocide against Armenians in 1915 and is scheduled to be voted on by the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Thursday.
In addition to reiterating Turkey’s long-held position that the events of 1915 do not constitute genocide, the delegates warned that the resolution could imperil Turkey’s ongoing and unprecedented efforts to normalize relations with Armenia.
Over at Foreign Policy Passport, Joshua Keating concludes that Turkey’s warnings suggest that it is not genuinely committed to the negotiations with Armenia and may only be taking part due to U.S. pressure.
With all due respect, I don’t think Keating’s analysis is a correct interpretation of Turkey’s perspective on this issue.
Here is what Keating says in his post:
It seems a bit contradictory to me that the Turkish government on the one hand says it sees the Armenian rapprochement as vital to its own national interest, but on the other hand says the U.S. resolution will imperil it.
Sensing that there was some misunderstanding in the room, I asked one of the panelists – AK Party Deputy of External Affairs Suat Kiniklioglu – to explain the domestic political dynamics within Turkey and why the resolution would make it more difficult to reach an agreement with Armenia.
Kiniklioglu’s response was that passing the resolution would likely strengthen radical, nationalist elements in both Turkey and Armenia who oppose the accords and who would use the resolution to push their own agendas.
It appears that the White House, which has not taken a formal position on this week’s vote, understands these sensitivities as well.
Here is what White House spokesman Mike Hammer said, when asked about the resolution:
Our interest remains the achievement of a full, frank and just acknowledgment of the facts. We continue to believe that the best way to advance that goal is for the Armenian and Turkish people to address the facts of the past as a part of their ongoing efforts to normalize relations.
Reading between the lines, Hammer seems to be implicitly acknowledging the Turkish position, which is that the resolution would complicate the current effort by Turkey and Armenia to conduct a joint historical review of the facts.
Notwithstanding my own serious doubts about whether Turkey and Armenia will successfully normalize their relations, it is not difficult to understand how H.R. 252 might make that task more difficult.
— Ben Katcher