Inconvenient resolution on Armenian genocide stirs US Congress
Last Week US Congress commission on Foreign Policy voted a resolution condemning the Armenian Genocide in Turkey during the First World War. It is not big news, given that a number of countries have done it and that this has happened before in the US Senate. This time however, the narrow vote (23:22) in the commission headed by former democrat presidential candidate John Kerry comes in a particularly inconvenient moment.
Turkey is not only among the US allies with strongest military. It also holds a crucial position for US ambitions in the Middle East. As a Muslim country, Turkey’s position on Iraq’s reconstruction, Iranian nuclear program and the Israel-Palestine conflict are very important for international diplomacy. Currently Turkey is a member of the UN Security Council and its opinion weighs even more.
It is not exactly a secret that the discursive question of Armenian genocide is a top priority in Turkish Foreign Affairs. Ankara is vigorously opposing all attempts, regardless of their source, to use the word ‘genocide’. It has been threatening to use its geopolitical position and its bridging role between NATO and the EU. John Kerry, as well as other prominent democrat,s has a persistent record in supporting the Armenian Diaspora. With congressional elections coming this November, electoral politics may have well played a role in the vote last week. The resolution, adopted with 1 vote majority advices the president to use the word ‘genocide’ and the administration to take firmer position in support of Armenian claims.
The White House has been a staunch opponent of the resolution and the immediate response of both President’s office and the Secretary of State Clinton indicates that, just as in 2008, the resolution will not be voted in the House.
White House Spokesman Robert Gibbs commented: ‘When we travelled there [in Turkey] last year, the President on that trip was working on bringing about the normalization of relations between Turkey and Armenia. Progress has been made and they’ve announced the idea of that normalization. Protocols to normalize that relationship have to go through the Turkish parliament.’ It is exactly those moves to break the ice between Turkey and Armenia, that give grounds to the White House efforts to stop the resolution. Now it is not the moment to point fingers at Ankara, when important decisions are to be taken and just a little after the diplomatic breakthrough in Turkish-Armenian relations.
Indeed, John Kerry’s commission did not do a favour to its fellow-democrats who direct the US foreign policy. Only a short while after the vote, Turkey called back its ambassador to the US and clearly showed that it will not give in to pressure. Indeed, Turkish diplomacy deserves admiration, as high-ranking officials successfully put the raw with Armenia in the same bag with the Nagorno-Karabakh frozen conflict. Turkey’s official position is that normalization of Armenian relations is only possible in the context of overall advancement of diplomatic solution in the Caucasus region.
It is clear that with Azerbaijan doubling its military budget every year and Russia always on the brink of war with Georgia, such advancement is highly unlikely. While the US is counting on Turkey for its Middle East agenda, Ankara will water down any attempts to point fingers at its history.
To be honest, foreign policy deals of this kind only complicate regional conflicts. As we have seen Kurdish insurgency in Turkey did not stop, even though Turkey has been a loyal NATO member. Neither was the Georgia conflict successfully solved (prevented) despite the friendship between Germany, France and Russia. Former (and current) empires always have the same agenda. Historic truth, apology, empowering local communities matter only when convenient.