World War I genocide clouds Turkish-Armenian accord

The Turkish and Armenian foreign ministers met in Zurich Oct. 10 to sign a landmark accord to normalize diplomatic ties between the two nations. The deal, which calls for the border to be reopened within two months, follows six weeks of negotiations mediated by Switzerland. The agreement calls for an international commission to research World War I-era archives to clarify the extent of Turkish massacres of Armenians. Many Armenians fear this will produce a revisionist history that dilutes the enormity of the killing. Some 10,000 protesters rallied in Armenia’s capital Oct. 9 to oppose the planned signing.

Another long-standing conflict that continues to cloud the reconciliation effort is over the disputed enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh. Turkey cut diplomatic ties and shut its border with Armenia in 1993 in support of Azerbaijan, which was then battling Armenian separatists for control over the enclave. Armenian forces drove out Azerbaijani troops in a war that left some 30,000 dead. Talks between the leaders of the Azerbaijan and Armenia over the region ended without result on October 9. Critics say the Turkish-Armenian agreement fails to take a clear stance on the Nagorno-Karabakh issue.

“We are surprised that in the protocols initiated in Geneva, there are no mentions of Nagorno-Karabakh, there is no mention of withdrawal of Armenians from occupied territories,” Onur Oymen, the deputy head of Turkey’s opposition Republican People’s Party, told Reuters. “That’s why there is no guarantee that Armenians will withdraw from occupied lands in case Turkey normalize relations and open the border.” (EurasiaNet, NYT, Oct. 10)

Ironically, the accord comes as Turkish authorities have brought new charges against Nobel laureate writer Orhan Pamuk for his statements asserting that the Armenian genocide happened. The author faces a fine of 36,000 lira (€16,655) over a statement he made in an interview published in Switzerland in February 2005: “On this ground 30,000 Kurds and 1 million Armenians were killed.” Criminal charges under the controversial Article 301 of the Turkish penal code (which outlaws “Insulting the Turkish People, Republic of Turkey and Governmental Institutions and Bodies”) were dismissed by the courts. (BiaNet, Oct. 10)

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